As well as becoming the natural home of score-runners with perfectly tuned touchscreen efforts like Whale Trail and Jetpack Joyride, the iPhone has more recently provided an unlikely refuge for bullet-hell shmups thanks to Cave’s efforts. Spiceworx’s Pig & Bullet wants to belong to both genres, but can’t quite live up to either’s delirious highs.
Just as in the Flash original, you manoeuvre a skiing pig around the screen and negotiate increasingly dense waves of bullets. In a nod to proper shooters, it’s only the core of the sprite that’s vulnerable (in this case your snout), allowing you to squeeze through some preposterously tight spaces. One hit, though, and your run is over. An oversized bullet will occasionally tear through the field of projectiles forcing you to hastily reroute, while falling turnips add to your multiplier if you can reach them.
It’s rousing stuff at first, and gains further credibility from being scored by former Capcom staffer Yasushi Kaminishi, though the jaunty chiptunes here are nothing like the tribal-industrial beats found in his soundtracks for Dreamcast shmups Mars Matrix and Giga Wing. Ultimately, though, there’s too little depth to keep you hooked for long: bullet trajectories don’t vary, always making their way in straight paths down the screen; and the often imprecise feeling nature of the touchscreen controls makes it tricky to adjust your position by a pixel’s width or two.
Along with updated graphics, and the original Flash game, the package is bolstered by a second mode in which bullets need to be collected. Any that make it to the bottom of the screen cost one of your 100 lives, and you accrue points faster if you stay at the bottom too, encouraging you to risk all for greed. Unfortunately, you’ll soon realise that swiping your finger back and forth as quickly as possible is the best tactic.
Pig & Bullet is certainly an amusing distraction, but Spiceworx’s thin veneer of polish can’t hide the simplistic Flash game lurking beneath.