You might have seen from my previous writing that I’m not the biggest fan of the latest-generation Apple TV. It’s a nice idea, but Apple’s attempts to sell it as a gaming console were disingenuous at best; there are myriad issues holding this thing back, and in turn they’re going to cripple any exclusive games that run on the platform. There aren’t too many of those, of course, and the situation hasn’t improved much since November. We already talked about Beat Sports, so now let’s look at Galaxy on Fire – Manticore RISING.
Once you’ve dealt with the Apple TV’s usual nonsense when it comes to installing apps – expect it to take longer than you’d think – you’ll find that controls are pretty much exactly what you’d expect if you’re familiar with the Siri Remote: gyroscopic. Tilt the remote, fly in a direction. Use the touchpad for slightly fancier maneuvers like boosting, braking and rolling. Click to use collectible powerups and subweapons, and don’t press any buttons to blast away, since the ship fires on its own. It’s not a terrible setup and accounts for the inherent inaccuracy in such a controller.
Generally this feels a bit like playing a space shooter on the Wii, though I can’t immediately think of any games that used this exact scheme on that console. If all of this seems too weird to bother with, well, Manticore RISING supports third-party controllers as well, so bust out that SteelSeries Nimbus and get to blasting. Either way, don’t expect a hugely strategic experience; there’s a whole lot of ships flying around, so pick one and try to trail it so you can shoot it a bunch. Repeat until done, then do it again for a few chapters.
There’s a story, of course, as this is technically a prologue game to the upcoming Galaxy on Fire 3, which may or may not actually end up on the Apple TV. Our heroine is “Manticore” Haley, a strong female character in an industry populated by hardcore space marines…no, wait, this is technically a mobile game, she’s a strong female character in an industry populated by angry, flappy birds.
Anyway, your job is to blast space pirates. Reasons are given for why you should blast them, but they’re largely unimportant and serve largely to guide you from one horde of pirates that need a good lasering to the next. I’m not too familiar with the earlier games in this series, so I can’t say if you’ll get more out of this having played those or not, but in my case I didn’t find it necessary to pay too much attention to the plot.
The graphical fidelity in Manticore RISING is surprisingly decent given the system it’s running on. Don’t expect anything like running Strike Suit Zero on a decent gaming PC or whatever, but this does look pretty good and it’s one of the more impressive games on the box. There’s a nice sense of speed and scale when you’re zooming around – a necessity for a good space shooter – and my only real complaint comes from some framerate issues that arise if too much is going on at once.
Galaxy on Fire – Manticore RISING is in an interesting position. It’s on the Apple TV, which isn’t really a good gaming machine…or, uh, a good set top box, all things considered. Despite this, it’s still a pretty decent game; it’s not going to shake the landscape of gaming, but it does well enough with a simple concept and retails for less than $10. I don’t think many people bit when Apple initially tried to sell the Apple TV to gamers, which is unfortunate, since Manticore Rising is worth some attention that it might not get due to the platform it’s on.