For those new to the After Burner series, it's a old line of arcade games that date back to the late '80s and have appeared on multiple platforms. But whether on your TV, your computer screen, or your mobile device, it's hard to match the visceral appeal of the original arcade units, a fact that's all too apparent after playing the iOS version of After Burner Climax.
You remember those units, right? After Burner was one of those giant, sit-in contraptions that would dip you up and down as you blasted your way through the air. That scene in the arcade from Terminator 2: Judgement Day? The video game that John Connor was playing just before learning that the T-1000 was coming to splatter his little butt all over the Galleria Mall was none other than the original After Burner.
After Burner Climax was also originally a sit-in arcade title, before landing on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN a few years ago. So how does this new version for iOS stack up to its predecessors? First things first: it's fast. And I mean that in both a good and bad way. It's fast in a good way because there's still plenty of the trademark After Burner action that has you jetting through hails of missiles and bringing down hundreds of enemy planes like flies.
Sometimes it's a little too fast to keep up with, as I definitely turfed out on more than one occasion, turning my Super Tomcat into a pixelated ball of fire. But it's also fast to play through. I was able to jet through the arcade mode in about 15 min or so, after which I didn't feel very compelled to go back and replay it. Plus, my eyes were a little tired from all that missile dodging.
A day or so later, I was compelled to go back and do the same run again, as if the only thing that was missing were some quarters to insert into my iPad. Climax definitely delivers what you want and what's best about the game -- raw speed and massive destruction. The After Burner series has never been about flight simulation in the least. It's a straight-forward, fast-twitch action shooter where all you can do is hurtle forward and plow through anyone that gets in your way.
You can't run out of missiles in this game, so feel free to lay on that trigger as hard as you want. The "Climax" part comes in the form of a meter that fills up at the bottom. When full, you can utilize the power to slow down the action around you, allowing you a little more time to get a bead on an elusive fighter pilot or special target.
The environments change quickly too, taking you from cityscapes, to oceans, to canyons both grand and narrow. Each new environment is more or less a level, separated by a loading screen that seamlessly takes place while your plane is up in the clouds, before lowering down into a new area.
But all that speed also quickly leads the game into some of its more frustrating areas -- the controls. For a game with an arcade pedigree like this one, not to mention its appearances on many consoles, it's a shame that Climax didn't launch with any kind of robust controller support. You can grab the edges of your iPad and tilt them around, as though you're in one of the units. But it's just not the same. And for a game that's mostly relying on the nostalgia factor to pull you through, that hurts it.
If you're only going to spend money on one aerial combat game on iOS, you are better off sticking with the Sky Gamblers series of games. But if you are feeling a little nostalgic and want to take a trip down memory lane, (despite memory lane in this case having a few potholes in it), then grab a copy of After Burner Climax. After all, if you don't, then who will take to the skies to prevent a nuclear war?