I used to love trips to the beach. The smell of the sea, the feel of the sand between my toes and the sound of the arcade belting out 80’s guitar riffs in a bid to get you to stick 10p in the slot.
Afterburner was one of those particular arcade games, a huge pneumatic cabinet that sat there waiting to be played while it flashed many brightly coloured explosions at you. I admit it took my money a fair few times.
Sega’s farily recent sequel also sat in arcades, but thanks to the decline of those places in the UK, I’ve never seen it or found out whether it has the same thrill. Luckily, they also ported the game to PS3 and Xbox 360 the other year, too, where I did get to have a go.
The game loses no time in shouting the odds. It’s you and a bunch of missiles against a swarm of enemy planes, just like the old days but with souped up graphics. Everything else about Afterburner Climax is pretty much unchanged. Barrel rolls allow you to escape enemy missiles, huge enemy planes try to break you into tiny pieces and the only real strategy is to fire and move, fire and move. Basically, it’s a hugely dumb and satisfying blast from the past.
I’m pleased to say that Sega’s iOS port is pretty much all of the above, too. The problem is that on a small iPhone screen it may well be just too much to take in. Move to the iPad, though, and you’ll soon notice the beatiful background scenery, just assuming you can stay still long enough with a thousand and one missiles on your tail. It’s not quite as impressive as its console counterpart in graphical shine, but it does a pretty good job and at the speed the game moves you won’t really get time to notice the difference.
The arcade mode pretty much does what it says on the tin, it lets you frantically fly through up to 20 different landscapes, trying to stay alive for as long as possible while blasting as many enemies as you can into oblivion. Score is all that matters here, in the best tradition of old arcade games everywhere, and a leaderboard ensures that your legend will live on (or not, depending on how good you are).
Score Attack mode refines the score aspect further, with the leaderboard positions up for grabs in an all-out effort to go as far as you can and destroy 100% of the enemies on screen, a very tough job indeed. Lastly, there’s Climax mode, which builds up a climax meter and then allows you to slow down time in a bullet-mode style to get those much needed accurate shots in before the planes zoom overhead.
Other than choosing from a bunch of different planes and then choosing which route to take, in a similar way to Sega’s other 80’s arcade hit, Outrun, there’s not really much more to Afterburner than just chasing high scores. But that’s what it’s designed to do and it does this well with plenty of flair. Unfortunately, it will all be over in a matter of minutes as you crash and burn or make it through to the last mission, but that’s the way these games go.
If you’re a big fan of score attack arcade games with big colourful graphics then Afterburner is your game. If you’re looking for something a little deeper then look elsewhere.