2D arcade space shooter games are a dime a dozen, but they are also about a dime or two to play. Now you can keep those 50c coins in your pocket, as Ikaruga is the latest port to be added to Xbox Live Arcade - and a great addition it is too.
It comes with tons of good options, such as two-player co-op; either on the same console, via system link or over Xbox Live. Playing over Xbox Live, however, does have a little bit of lag. Nothing too serious, but in a game like this just a second of delay can (and usually will) spell certain death. You can also adjust the difficulty, screen and sound options.
It’s also really good looking for a simple arcade game, and is without a doubt the best version of the game you will find. Everything is crisp and shiny and there are some gorgeous 3D backgrounds with a variety of environments. All this makes Ikaruga one of the better-looking side scrollers around.
Like most side scrolling games, you play as a spaceship flying across a 2D environment shooting at an armada of different alien spaceships coming at you. There are a few things unique to Ikaruga; one being that instead of having different weapon types there are instead two different types of polarity. Your ship has the ability to switch over between 'light' and 'dark' polarity.
This adds a lot of strategic depth to Ikaruga and is a lot of fun to use. You see the enemies are either dark or light themselves and will fire their type of weapons at you. If you are in dark mode then you do more damage to light enemies and can absorb dark enemy bullets – and vice versa for when you are in light mode. Soaking up enemy fire is also key to strategy as it allows you to do two things. The first is not die (or at least not die as often) and the second is build energy to use your special homing missile attacks.
You will need those, by the way, because let's just get this one thing straight… Ikaruga is a punishing game! It’s crazy difficult. Even more difficult than watching an entire season of Dr Phil in one sitting (more entertaining though). For more casual gamers it may even get to the point of being ridiculous and too frustrating (even on easy). For those who like a challenge, you’ve found it. This game is going to kick your butt, especially when you get to some of the great, yet insanely challenging boss battles at the end of the stages.
Traditionally, these games will gradually increase in difficulty as each stage goes on. This is not the case with Ikaruga however; by about the third chapter, all bets are off and I wish you the best of luck! I truly do.
For 800 MS Points, Ikaruga makes a great addition to your Arcade collection. It is extremely challenging and if you don’t get too frustrated it will also be tons of fun; either on your own or with a friend. It is classic side-scrolling gaming at its best.