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Hand-drawn havoc

Buster Red is a vertical-scrolling arcade shooter with frenetic pacing and a cool and colorful pen-and-ink aesthetic.

Buster Red is a vertical-scrolling arcade shooter with frenetic pacing and a cool and colorful pen-and-ink aesthetic.

Your ship is constantly firing in Buster Red (no fire button needed), and you control movement by touching and dragging around the screen--a system that works surprisingly well most of the time, although occasionally your finger does get in the way, requiring quick repositioning. You also tap the screen to activate temporary or one-off "Buster Moves," such as a forward-firing beam, screen-filling electricity, or a giant, slow-moving fireball. Your ship can hold two "Moves" at once, which you pick up periodically along with shields and power-ups for your main gun.

Buster Red has 30 levels (you can jump in on any level you've previously beat), along with a "Boss Rush" mode, and the game offers a satisfying array of interesting enemies, with difficulty (and power-ups) that ramp up quickly. You have to learn which power-ups work best when, and you defeat levels by studying the quirks and patterns of individual enemies and obstacles. The game provides three different difficulty levels, so it's fun for both novices and hard-core vertical shooter fans. Expert players will enjoy unlocking the four additional ship types, which you can also pay to unlock (along with 20 "Elite" levels) as in-app purchases.

Though Buster Red excels at gameplay, art direction (including an infectious electronic soundtrack), and enemy and ship design, it's still rough around the edges, with scant documentation and frequent start-up crashes and menu unresponsiveness (particularly frustrating when you're trying to pause a game). We hope that future versions resolve these issues, but overall, Buster Red is still a very fun and well-done vertical shooter.

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