By Nate Adcock on Wed, 03/13/2013
Some games draw you in with an engaging storyline or challenging strategy; others, with the adrenaline rush of combat, or simply as a cool way to kill time. In LIBERATION MAIDEN ($4.99), game designers Level-5 went for all of the above. The graphics and anime cut scenes are amazing. The game concept is well developed, and while the storyline may at first be obscure, part of the fun is discovering the history and story as you play. LIBERATION MAIDEN works well with its eye-watering, non-stop action and a screen sprinkled with detailed widgets in and between levels.
The game is just plain gorgeous on my iPad mini, so I'd imagine a Retina display would be visually mind-blowing! The unique and artfully crafted anime background and menus are superior to almost any iTunes game you will find.
The overall concept behind LM is much like a DoDonPachi-style mega shooter, but in 3D. Your character's role is one of Shoko Azaro, taking the mantle of president of New Japan after her father's assassination by the evil Dominion. She runs straight to her mecha warrior platform, Kamui, and launches in search of the enemy. Guided by radar and a large green arrow below, you pilot her into the various hostile areas, always in search of Lesser or Greater Spikes.
Lesser and Greater Spikes are much like giant mechanical mushrooms that sprout from the ground when struck with your weapons, growing upward until you can target the base, eventually resulting in their destruction. Targeting and fire is a simple affair of tap, swipe, and release — including low-level strafe mode that puts plasma bolts across multiple emplacements or incoming hostiles. As you level up, new and more advanced weapon options are added.__
The game automatically handles the aerial dynamics for you, and so some targets and boss levels are little more than a directional dodge and shoot exercise, whcih can go on seemingly forever. D-Pad control can be a little wonky at times, such as when you overshoot a target and have to "backstroke" to it.
Each objective is liberally infested with enemy gun/projectile emplacements. In higher levels, the frequency, and power of weapons used against your aerial incursion will mount. Laser gun and guided missile clusters become pretty common by the end of level 1. Each mission usually involves killing enemy targets like ships, tanks, or other hostile targets, and then finding and destroying a Lesser Spike hidden amongst them. You level up by completing all missions, and destroying the final Greater Spike boss.
Throughout the game, on-screen cues guide or warn you of threats. The pop-ups can be a bit annoying, and the constant barrage of audio warnings ("enemy missile closing in!") also grate after awhile. But the gameplay overall is dazzling. Level 1 is pretty easy and becomes monotonous, but more interesting gameplay (like avoiding radar and navigating obstacles) begins in level 2.
Several features of the game add to the interest level and storytelling behind LM. The artwork is very cool. As you complete levels, you unlock menu selections that present text and art about the story or in-game objects. It's all very well executed. The sound effects and in-game graphics are superb, and though the soundtrack is great, like the audio effects, it becomes a bit repetitive.
You can't disable any of these features, although you can turn them down. You also can't play your own music while playing, which would be a nice tweak in future versions.
The game offers a story mode: playing level-to-level with all the prep scenes; or you can play individual levels in the Stage Attack mode. While leveling up is the ultimate goal, you also earn points for destroying more enemies in a level. Full Game Center integration is supported.
My biggest gripe is the price. You could make an argument that LM is much more than a simple shooter game. It tells a story with fabulous anime cut scenes. It is art! It is anime! What is it, exactly? I don't know, but $4.99 is perhaps a little steep. You ultimately should decide, but if you've been looking for an anime action shooter, this is a good one!
- Top-notch artistic visuals and player experience
- Best in genre I’ve tried (although I haven’t played many mecha/anime games)
- Full integration with Game Center
- Can’t customize sound
- Needs minor control improvements
- Costs $4.99