Ion Assault Preview
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-09-03 Xbox 360 Arcade RP (Rating Pending) Coreplay / Black, Inc.

While the gaming industry isn't at a loss for arcade style shooters, or even space shooters, most of the options available today are basic clones of one another, with one or two slight variations that give them their own identity - a new storyline, or a unique setting, as examples. However, Coreplay and Black, Inc. have set out to change that with the creation of Ion Assault for the Xbox Live Arcade.

Based on appearances alone, Ion Assault may seem incredibly similar to other shooters, specifically Geometry Wars, but when given a closer look is actually a unique take on the genre, adding an in-depth physics system to the familiar gameplay formula.

Instead of simply holding down on the fire button, allowing your rigid cannons or lasers to pummel everything in sight, Ion Assault requires that you arm your ship using the ions found in the surrounding environment. Once you pull enough ions into your ship, you can use them to power either weapons or shields, with weapons coming in various forms, from the standard machine-gun types to more advanced options like plasma waves.

The physics system becomes all the more noticeable as you watch the particles float around the playing field, bouncing off of enemies and other obstacles, a la Newton's three laws. With thousands of particles on screen at once, the screen quickly becomes a makeshift fireworks display, as the fluid particles create a backdrop for your explosive destruction. Add to this the outer-space setting, and you have a graphical setup that is sure to impress.

Ion Assault contains over 20 levels, spread throughout four regions, with the end of each sector being guarded by a massive boss which houses a puzzle of sorts (like figuring out that extremities must be eliminated before going after the core, and so on), that must be solved before they can be defeated.

Over 30 enemy types populate the levels of Ion Assault, with the game being split into two distinctive extremes, in terms of gameplay possibilities. Both slow and steady, and balls-to-the-wall players will in theory be met with a gameplay experience that suits their likes to a T, as Ion Assault contains what Black, Inc. is calling a "dynamic level intensity" system, that places more enemies on screen depending on how quickly or recklessly you play the game.

That is, for players who want a more casual experience, you can simply eliminate one enemy at a time and then move onto the next, as they slowly appear on screen. Alternatively, players who fly around the screen with wild abandon will be met head-on with multiple enemies, creating more of a challenge for those players.

In this way, the game becomes accessible to players both young and old, regardless of their skill level, as the game will, again, in theory, adapt to them.

Aside from the standard single-player campaign, Ion Assault will also offer both a co-op campaign option and competitive online or local multiplayer, with leaderboards for those who wish to dominate all.

Ion Assault is set for release later this month.