Siberian Strike X is a title about foiling the plans of Russian domination of the world and the imposition of communist ideology through a vodka company front. They must have learnt some new tricks from the Colombian drug cartel and the so-called “coffee business”. The principle antagonist here is one called Stalinbot who is “drunk with power”, the whole fiasco taking place in, and I quote, “19xx”. The only one who seems drunk here appears to be the writer.
Luckily, X is a title that needs little to no story backdrop. It’s a shooter title where you pilot WWII era planes. Each pilot has a different style of plane. Eliza, the lone female pilot, takes up the quickest plane, the F4-U Corsair. Pappy has the strongest plane, the P-38 lightning (but it also happens to be the slowest). And finally, Eliot represents the median between the two with a well balanced P-51 Mustang. All of the planes operate fairly similar. They receive the same power-ups, bombs and fighting style except for durability and agility. In fact, the story progresses similarly for all three personae. There are no dialogue forks – everyone speaks the same lines. However, each plane has its own unique weapon and this can be upgraded throughout the game.
X is not a thinking game at all though. It’s mostly about fast paced action as wave after wave of the Russian hordes attack you. I guess the vodka business wasn’t too bad for the Russians in the aftermath of WWII. The action is nicely paced and the obligatory boss encounters at the end of certain stages are challenging but not frustratingly challenging. A difficulty slider helps alleviate some of the aggravation for novices. X works on a three lives and you’re out principle but you can always restart your game on another level.
The visuals in X are bright and colorful. There’s a lot of detail and thought put into creating the characters, antagonists and the special effects themselves. You won’t see real time lighting but all the hand-drawn pieces are well done and nicely animated too. In action, X is a fairly frenetic game as you dodge projectiles being fired at you while trying aim your guns in the enemy’s direction. When a lot of enemy units appear on screen, the game does suffer a noticeable slowdown. The triple parallax scrolling doesn’t pause or freeze but there is a noticeable framerate reduction. The end result: things aren’t as silky smooth as they should be.
Customary with most Gameloft titles, the visuals are up to par with some of the best Pocket PC titles out there. The sound, too, achieves this sort of excellence but more because of a design decision than technical excellence. The developers behind X took a page out of the fighter games; those created by Capcom or Midway. An announcer actually exists in the game itself and when you pick up power-ups, you’ll be told what you picked up. It’s a simple design decision but it adds volumes (pun intended) to the game and along with the subtitled dialogue, you’re drawn into X itself.
Some of the power-ups like Team Attack are particularly novel (the other two pilots you didn’t pick suddenly come help you – again the reference to Capcom fighting titles is pertinent) but all in all, there isn’t anything here you haven’t already seen in other titles. You can charge up your main gun before unleashing it on enemies and the usual megabombs cause everything on screen to explode. Some unlocked features in special gauntlet style levels pose as extra challenge for the hardcore enthusiasts.
The only real fault I found with X is its treatment of ground based units. During the course of the game, you’ll come across planes as well as units like ships. For some reason, obstacles like icebergs, which I assume are on the level of ships, reach all the way up to the sky so when you try to fly past them you’ll only hurt yourself. That seems a little strange and the icebergs actually form the “slalom” gauntlet you must go through in unlocking the extras. It’s not that I object to the use of the icebergs but some forewarning that these objects will actually hurt you would have helped.
Gameloft has turned one of the most oft-used motifs amongst Pocket PC developers into an enjoyable experience. While some of the features found in X are derivative, the package as a whole is worth playing through. A high level of standard in terms of graphics and sound make it a worthwhile trip. Granted, this is not a major title from Gameloft but it is easily an enjoyable one.
[09/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve