You've been... Thunderstruck! Though Storm Casters, a twin-stick shooter from developer Get Set Games, doesn't really feature storms, it does have plenty of casters. And loot. And monsters, dungeons, spells, and... booster cards?
In Storm Casters you're on a quest to beat the bad guys because of their general crime of being bad guys. After selecting either a male or female avatar (a welcome option that, if Ubisoft is to be believed, probably cost Get Set Games a fortune), you're plunked down into a dungeon and presented with increasingly difficult, randomly-generated zones to conquer. As this is a twin-stick shooter, you move and shoot your way through each of these zones, gathering gold and power-ups while trying to stay alive and beat the ever-ticking clock. Storm Casters performs a razor-fine balancing act of keeping you at low health so you're always careful about engaging enemies, but keeping the clock ticking so you're in a hurry. The clock's always counting down, you're always just a couple of hits away from death, and the levels are randomly-generated, so things are always nicely tense and you never quite know what to expect.
There are a number of different enemy types, and while most can just be zapped to death without any consideration for tactics, as you progress new baddies begin to emerge that force you to adapt the way you fight. Teleporting mages hide behind crowds and force you to keep an eye on their projectile attacks. Charging brutes zip across the level and require fast-footwork. The huge, end-of-chapter bosses are unique encounters with mechanics all their own. Fortunately, Storm Casters gives you an arsenal of spells so large Gandalf would blush. Rapid-fire magic, bombs, shrinking spells, triple shots; there is so much magic to choose from that you'll never be slinging the same spell for long.
There's a lot about Storm Casters that might remind you of old-school shmups like Zombies Ate My Neighbors, but what sets it apart from the games of yore is its leveling system. As you play you earn gold and crystals (which- you guessed it- can also be acquired as in-app purchases), as well as cards. Rather than offer traditional equipment slots or ability selections, Storm Casters grants you skills and bonuses based on the cards in your deck. While this may sound like an interestingly strategic addition, your cards are randomly selected for you before each time you go into the dungeon, so strategy goes out the window like a drunken bird in search of a party. The cards all offer bonuses that are pretty independent from each other, like additional chances for loot, extra time, or extra chances for specific power-ups to drop, so even if you could pick the exact cards you wanted it's unlikely you'd find any single combination of cards that worked better than the others. Still, the illusion of choice would be nice here; as is, the randomly-selected loadouts often leave things feeling a bit shallow.
While Storm Casters' visuals are cute and light-hearted, its soundtrack is surprisingly epic, and would probably seem right at home in a bigger-budget, more serious action RPG. The touch controls work well, for the most part, letting you choose to either control the direction you shoot in or have the game auto-aim for you. Auto-aim is almost always more effective than manually controlling the direction you're firing, which, again, leaves things feeling kind of shallow.
In spite of its shortcomings and simplicity, Storm Casters offers fast and fun twin-stick shooter action. Its levels are short, and its ever-ticking clock keeps you feeling tense as you hurry from one area to the next in search of more and more loot. Those looking for strategy, complexity, or challenge should probably look elsewhere, but for young gamers or those who are looking to simply relax and blast some monsters, Storm Casters brings the thunder and then some.
This review is based on a purchased download of Storm Casters for iOS.