Ion Assault is the newest entry in the ultra popular top-down space shooter genre, and because there are a ton of games similar to it, it’s difficult for a game like that to stand apart from the rest. For the most part, this game is easily comparable to its asteroid-hating siblings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it brings nothing new the table. Yes, the asteroids, square arena, and dual stick controls are all there but the combat is actually refreshingly different. Intrigued? Let me explain.
To destroy the abundance of asteroids and enemies floating around the arena you have to gather energy from the blanket of ions covering the arena. As you gather the energy your meter fills up, and the more energy you have when you fire, the more damage you do. This is neat because it keeps you moving, which is important for this type of game where you should never stay in one spot for too long, and because as you gather the ions you gain a sort of shield as well. This shield can help repel some of the smaller enemies but it can also be used to destroy asteroids just by hovering next to them for a while. The combat isn’t different enough to take getting used to, but it is unique enough to help Ion Assault feel different from the plethora of arcade games like it.
Another thing about this game that I really liked are its visuals; the arena is colorful without getting terribly distracting and the enemy designs are superb. Organic bug-like life forms that look like they just crawled out of the ocean replace the generic space ships and UFOs of previous games. Overall this is a very vibrant game that has an interesting art style that rarely interferes with the gameplay. I say rarely because at times there is just too much going on at once. At any given time you have a dozen (or more) asteroids, a handful of enemies, powerups, drones, and then throw the ion particles in there and the game can occasionally get a little chaotic for even the most seasoned Geometry Wars veteran.
Like any good shoot ‘em up (also fondly known as the Shmup) there are more than a few ways for you to show our mad skillz with other players. There’s online and local versus, co-op, and of course, the leaderboards. These options definitely help to make the game seem longer (and add to replayability) which is important since the game’s single-player is fairly short. There are four areas that each contains five arenas and one boss arena (finale). For the most part each arena is pretty much the same but the enemies really help to change things up. Each of the four areas looks different and brings with it a new set of enemies requiring you to switch up your strategy each time you get to a new area. The bosses are by far the best things about this game, because each is distinctive and extremely fun to fight.
For the most part Ion Assault is a great game, though not without its flaws. My major problem with the game is that it gets a little repetitive. When you’re not slaying the giant bosses your sole goal is to survive long enough to destroy all the asteroids scattered about the arena. It would’ve been nice to see a new element get introduced into the gameplay like defending an important object or something along those lines because destroying asteroids for sixteen levels gets a little tedious. If you’re looking for an energetic shmup or just an entertaining game to invest a couple hours into you can’t go wrong with Ion Assault, but if you want something with a little more depth I suggest you look elsewhere.