It can be difficult finding a completely fresh game in this day and age, as almost every idea in the book has been used before. Fortunately Ion Assault refuses to conform to this.
Coreplay and Black Inc have fused their game development and publishing powers together, creating the most original arcade game I have played in a long time. The game puts you inside a small space ship (from a top-down view) and takes place in a very limited space setting, teasing you inside a little box which prevents intergalactic exploration. They call this the battlefield.
I grew to often dislike the battlefield as I continuously tried to fly out of it only to hit a very large barrier which would spin me out of control, most of the time resulting in my death.
The Ion Assault gameplay fully revolves around an ion particle system. It is incredibly interactive and fun to use. Basically your ship is fitted with a mass reactor, which is some kind of particle manipulation tool used to attract ion particles before launching them at asteroids and enemies. You feel a sense of invincibility when unleashing the mass reactors full potential. The number of however many thousands of particles in each stage of the game is limited, so once you absorb them they are gone until you release them in a forceful manner. They can then be recycled over and over again. If only the real world would realise the power of recycling - put a stop to Global Warming anyone?
The particle physics system also plays a tactical role in the game play as you may find recently absorbed areas to be very empty of ion particles, forcing you to manoeuvre your way to the other side of the map.
Battling your way across twenty four stages (six stages to each of the four individual territories/settings), your objective is to wipe out all of the asteroids and obstacles in sight using this particle system whilst collecting score orbs and avoiding enemy space things (I say ‘things’ because some of them go beyond my imagination). You can also gather satisfying power-ups giving you that little bit of extra assistance during times of need.
Playing the game is pure entertainment, so make sure you have nothing important to do, as you may lose track of time pretty quickly. The variety that Ion Assault offers is amazingly impressive to say the least. For such a small game, you wouldn’t expect as much as it delivers - not even close. There are a total of thirty different enemy types including a boss for the last stage of each territory (four bosses in total, keeping the game a challenge) and the different settings that you play through keep it interesting.
Very rarely will you find any kind of repetitiveness in Ion Assault and each play through is different, making the replayability factor fantastic. Technical areas of the game such as visuals and audio are what you would expect from a new arcade title. It is a next-gen arcade game but it doesn’t overly impress from that perspective. It’s still graphically very nice however and the commentary voice and sound effects give it that complementary arcade feel.
Multiplayer is also included allowing cooperative play as well as a versus mode online. There is also an online leader board creating that challenge of trying to be number one.
Not sold on it yet? Ion Assault is easily one of the top arcade titles on Xbox Live Arcade this year. The fresh idea of the ion particle system is great and the variety of such a small game is second to none. It’s a challenge but not so hard as to make you give up in frustration. The fun that can be had from this title is addictive so make sure you have nowhere important to be when you give it a shot.