I won't lie to you, folks. I love playing shoot 'em ups (shmups), but I'm not necessarily the best. I'm decent, sure -- but having me play a Bullet Hell game usually ends with me uttering every obscenity I know in every language I can speak. Thankfully, iStriker 2: Air Assault isn't a Bullet Hell shmup. But is it good enough to keep me flying high? Or is it so bad that I just devolve into a cursing, incoherent mess?

iStriker 2 from C2Matrix is a simple shmup with a good amount of polish. There's no real story, per se, so players can feel free to make up their own. What's evident from the get-go is that the player's army is severely lacking in funds, since it decides that the best course of action is to strike at the enemy with one helicopter.

Thankfully, what the army lacks in funds and personnel, it makes up for with NUCLEAR BOMBS. If you can't beat 'em, bomb 'em! You take control of a lone helicopter and zip around the map as the game auto-fires three rounds every second or so. There are six levels to fly through with only one clear goal in mind, which is to destroy the enemy and make it out alive!

The controls are very simple, depending one which set up you choose. Touch controls are, in my opinion, the easiest and most responsive to use. You just glide your finger across the screen in order to control your chopper, dodging stray bullets here and there, and setting up your guns to obliterate an enemy on the other end of the screen. It's fairly easy to control the helicopter like this and just takes an extra finger from your other hand to active the Burst Shot or Bomb buttons.

The tilt controls, however, are absolute trash and will cause you to fly into an innumerable amount of projectiles, rendering you a completely useless hunk of flying metal just waiting to be turned into scorched debris. Just stick with the touch controls. Seriously. On a more positive note, this game can be played on an iCade, giving it even more of a classic arcade shmup feel.

As I said, this game only has six levels with three varying degrees of difficulty. You can start off on Easy, but just be warned that "easy" is sort of a relative term when it comes to this game. You're given two lives and three bombs at the outset. Enjoy those first few moments of feeling powerful and well-stocked, because they won't last long. You'll soon find out that "easy" is just iStriker 2's way of saying, "You won't die that quickly."

But you better believe that you're going to die. And that you will die a lot. Usually, this kind of difficulty under the guise of an easy mode would bother me, but it works for a shooter like this. Games in this genre are supposed to be mind-numbingly hard, so it only adds to the challenge and the (somewhat limited), replay value. You probably won't get through this in one shot, but you'll have a hell of a time trying to advance.

Despite the almost soul-crushing difficulty, the game is a joy to play. And you know what's the best part? There are no in-app purchases in sight. Boom.

For all that it does right, it only stumbles in a few places. For starters, only having six levels is kind of a bummer, but I guess that's to hearken back to the days of arcade shooters. Still, an advanced player could blaze through the game in an hour or two, leaving them bored and unfulfilled. Also, a multiplayer mode would have made for some fun times, perhaps through WiFI or Bluetooth. And what is up with the lack of sound in the opening intro?

Having only a single-player mode kind of kills any replay value iStriker 2 might have had as well. A challenge mode, survival mode, or even a boss mode would have given the game a bit more longevity. But still, as far as iOS shmups go, I'd be hard-pressed to name a better one. It's only $0.99 for a limited time, so go ahead and grab this one. But no matter what you do, and no matter how tempting it might be, just don't use the tilt controls. Seriously.


App Store Link: iStriker 2: Air Assault for iPhone & iPad | By C2Matrix | Price: $0.99 | Version: 1.1.2 | 32.0 MB | Rating 9+

7.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating