Phoenix HD for iPhone Review

By on August 22, 2011

One of the best vertical scrolling shooters on the App Store!

Good: Beautiful retina-display visuals; Runs at 60fps; Regional Leaderboards; Adaptive AI; Procedurally generated content
Bad: Leaderboards cost money; No extra life to continue stage
Price: AED Free (+ $0.99 for leaderboard access, and per new ship).
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

The iPhone 4, and well, the majority of iOS devices, seem perfect devices for vertical scrolling shooters, or shoot’em ups as many like to call this genre. I mean, these games are best played in short bursts, yet always have the quality of making you go for ‘one more round’. Surprisingly though, there’s not a lot of these types of games on the App Store, and even fewer (just a handful actually) that are decent enough to play. Today I’ll be looking at Phoenix HD, which, after a whole lot of searching on the App Store, promises to deliver an exquisite gameplay experience for shoot’em up fans.

It’s a simple process of your ship going to the top, enemy ships coming down the screen and you blowing everything up for as long as your health lasts. Throughout the game, you’ll be getting various power-ups and health packs from destroyed enemies. After starting up the game the first thing I noticed was how fast and smooth the gameplay was. Even with a hundred bullets flying in a all directions, the game never slowed down on my iPhone 4. The color schemes of the ships, bullets, lazers and bomb patters create an extremely vivid experience on the retina display where sometimes I was just blown away by how beautiful the onscreen action was looking; soon followed by my ship blowing away because I wasn’t paying enough attention to avoid enemy bullets.

Based on my personal experience, the responsiveness was fast enough that I never felt that my thumb movements weren’t recognized in-game. The only thing that I can complaint about, gameplay wise, is the fact that you only get one life. Sure, you get various power-ups and healthpacks throughout the game to kill off enemies, but if your ship gets blown, that’s it: Game Over. However, given the procedurally generated content of the game and the dynamic AI, which changes in-game difficulty depending on your performance, I never felt like not having extra lives made the game frustrating because there was no “start the game from the first level.” That’s because there are no ‘levels’ so to speak. Every time I restarted the game, apart from the first two ships, every other enemy ship was different. Sometimes the flower patterns would be familiar to me, but even within them certain turrets will throw random bullets which always kept me on my toes.

One the best things about Phoenix HD is it’s online global and localized leaderboards. You can see your current and high score ranked in your city, country, continent and ultimately the whole world. Sadly, to access the leaderboards, you have to pay $0.99; herein lies the biggest weakness of the game. While Phoenix HD is free, you scores will not be saved (or go on the leaderboards) if you don’t pay the $0.99 to open it up. I don’t mind paying that much, it’s truly  worth it, but getting a pop-up to buy the access to leaderboards every time you finish a game just gets on my nerves.

Your's truly is quite bad, but not that bad.

While the basic ship called the “Phoenix” is free, the bombardier and the lazer equipped ships need to be purchased for $0.99 each. Again, people may think that this is the developer nickle & dimeing their customers, but I think of it as a basic experience which is for free, and the full version costing $1 to $3.  The best part about these additional ships is that they auto-target the enemy ship’s turrets, and blowing those up will get you bonus power-ups. In essence these ships prolong your life and extend gameplay experience, but it’s still interesting to note that the person with the highest score in the world got it with the basic Phoenix ship.

All in all, if you want a quick, and extremely satisfying fix of gorgeous looking shoot’em up, it doesn’t get better than Phoenix HD.


From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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