A port of the mobile game of the same name, Terarin Games’ MissileDancer has players locking onto enemies rather than blasting them outright. Does this new way to play pay off, or are you better off sticking with the classics?
In true shmup fashion, players will take control of a ship and navigate their way through waves of enemies and bosses spread throughout eight levels. However, the primary way to take down enemies isn’t by laying on the fire. Rather, when holding down the lock-on button, a circular cursor surrounds your ship. Players can then navigate to enemies, lock on to them, and fire missiles to take them out. This requires a bit more offensive maneuvers than expected from the genre, but it’s a refreshing change. The ability to shoot down enemy missiles is still there, but this is the primary way to deal with the endless planes, helicopters, tanks, and more.
Power-ups exist on the field too, increasing the range and the number of missiles that can lock-on. Crystals can also be picked up on the battlefield, though they only serve as a way to boost your score on the offline leaderboards. Players can also boost their score through chain combos and quickly completing each stage, which is a nice touch. Just be warned that death is imminent – one hit and you are down.
The game is fairly forgiving though, with multiple difficulty settings in Arcade Mode, the chance to easily earn more lives, and the chance to play any unlocked stage from a menu. It’s almost a little too easy – each stage only takes minutes to complete, making it fairly easy to conquer this title. In addition, the AI of the ships all follows a scripted pattern. Some ships do not have to be taken down before they leave the screen, while others run into walls, destroying themselves in the process. Most shmups are short, but this one feels more like a snack.
There is a “Caravan Mode” that serves as a three minute score attack. The faster players defeat enemies, the more enemies show up, making it a race to see how fast each group can be taken down. Though it has its own leaderboard, it is more of a diversion than the main attraction.
MissileDancer changes up the shmup formula just enough to stand out. Its lack of difficulty and short length hinder its replayability, but those looking for something new could do far worse than this title.