It seems apt to open this review with a statement that gets straight to the point: Apache Overkill from Playerthree is a side scrolling shoot ‘em up. In many ways, we could leave it at that, so barebones and pure is the game’s approach to the genre – but is it’s directness such a bad thing?
Apache Overkill originally started life as a free to play Flash title and has now been thrust into the commercial arena of the PlayStation Store’s minis library with a £1.99 price tag. It’s free-to-play origins are made apparent as soon as you hit start on the opening menu – within seconds you find your chubby Apache helicopter skimming over a dusty landscape, blasting wave after wave of enemies, with larger foes and bosses tossed into the action periodically. By the time you’ve reached the end of the third world and picked up a limited range of power-ups, it’s apparent that those looking for any complexity beyond dodging and hammering the fire button should look elsewhere.
It would be unfair to use Apache Overkill’s simplicity as too much of a criticism, for two main reasons. Obviously, there is the low price tag to take into account; but more importantly, it’s clear that this is a game aimed at the younger end of the market and casual gamers. In this respect it succeeds through a combination of smooth, accurate controls and big, bold and (modestly) good-looking visuals.
Visually, the game shares much in common with SNK’s much loved Metal Slug Series – with the Apache helicopter of the title being jumbo-sized and proportionally super-deformed. Enemies appear to come from some kind of Nazi faction, and pilot everything from motorbikes and side-cars to (what look like) jet-powered cauldrons, giant blimps, transport planes and (for the boss fights) well armed choppers. Though on the whole they offer very little in the way of challenge, the diversity of foes you get to destroy combined with screen filling explosions and some cheeky sound effects (including wolf-whistles and cackles of laughter from your co-pilot) lend a giddy sense of fun to the proceedings.
It is somewhat disappointing that the generally slick production values couldn’t have been married to slightly more varied and nuanced gameplay, as the levels on show differ only in their backgrounds and the number of foes that are chucked your way. However, while there are far better – and far deeper – side-scrolling shooters out there, as an attempt to craft an approachable entry point to the genre for younger and casual gamers, Playerthree should consider it mission accomplished.
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