Review: Ion Assault (Xbox 360)October 8th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Xbox 360
With shooters being a dime a dozen on Xbox Live Arcade, every game from 2009 onward has to provide new and compelling features or gameplay in order to be anything more than a blip on the radar. Ion Assault takes an Asteroids approach to its gameplay with some interesting twists to make it a fresher experience.
The focus of Ion Assault is to destroy all of the asteroids in the level to open up a wormhole to the next level. Each level is pretty much a sandbox in space with a handful or so of larger asteroids, a lot of ion particles that are scattered around the level, some power-ups, and enemies that will appear soon enough. The way you destroy those asteroids is by sucking in the ion particles by holding in the left trigger and moving around the level to pull them in and letting go to shoot them to heat up the asteroid until it explodes.
There is some depth to that mechanic, as you can constantly hold onto the particles to have a stored ball of energy that can also heat up asteroids and enemies as more of a defensive means of doing that same thing. Good shots can also take out multiple enemies, asteroids, or whatever else is in the area at once, so collecting a lot of ions can be very useful in tight spots. The only real issue with the controls is that aiming your particle gun with the right stick isn’t like your normal dual-stick shooter, so you’re slowly rotating the laser sight.
Ion Assault’s single-player campaign is fairly short at four worlds of six levels each. The one thing of note is that you must play through all six levels in a world to open up the next, which includes a boss level at the end. Luckily, you have unlimited continues to get through those levels, so perseverance will help you get through eventually. Once you get through the levels once, there isn’t much reason to go back through besides playing with a friend through the same levels.
There is multiplayer to help save Ion Assault’s offering from being as shallow as it sounds, but it’s lacking in almost everything that was interesting about the single-player with the added lack of anybody playing online as a slap in the face. Multiplayer here is basically deathmatch in that you can shoot some weird space ooze gun at enemies as you zip around the level until they take enough damage to explode. That’s not even how you end the match, as there are weird bases floating around the level, which you must destroy by pressing either of the shoulder buttons to send drones at them until enough run into the base until it’s destroyed. The major annoyance is that the control issue from the single-player isn’t an issue here, as aiming with the right analog stick is just like the typical dual-stick shooter, but it’s wasted on this mode without any options to use it elsewhere.
Ion Assault does look good, mostly for the smart decision to keep levels small to make the particle effects look better when things exploded to send ion particles and debris outward. Enemies are designed well enough to be distinctive and recognizable so you can know what you need to do to take them out any time that you see them. Though levels are basically the same in the objects you see, their visuals styles differ nicely with differently-colored ion particles and enemies and asteroids to looks quite different between worlds, which keeps the short campaign from looking the same throughout the entire thing. The music is decent enough, as it is a bit of a techno style that has a bit of a space vibe to it.
While Ion Assault’s gameplay is interesting and fairly unique with some depth to how you can approach each level, but it’s the overall lack of modes or features that makes this worth its 800 points price ($10 in US dollars). There’s no replay value once you’ve beaten the 24 single-player levels by yourself or with a friend, which can be completed in a few hours if you’re persistent. The multiplayer leaderboards say that only about 10% of the 1,500 people that have played the single-player mode have played in the online multiplayer mode, so to say that you won’t have anybody to play with is quite the understatement. If this were a 400 point title, this could have been a more attractive option, but for what is offered, you should look elsewhere for your shooter action on Xbox Live Arcade.