Annihilation Arena (a.k.a. AArena) gives us a glimpse into the bleak future, when heavily armed hovercraft will engage in deadly arena combat for the public’s entertainment. You must pilot your ship around three different arenas, each more dangerous than the last, and destroy hundreds of enemy ships. Watch out for the final boss for each arena and survive to the next round of deadly combat. The smooth controls, plentiful supply of power-ups, and a great techno soundtrack make Annihilation Arena a great way for action fans to spend $1.99.
The controls are responsive and sleek. Your left thumb controls your hovercraft, while your right thumb controls your weapon aim. The ship turns on a dime and you can shoot in all directions. Things are pretty tough, even on the easy setting. Arenas are large, about 4 screens put together, and enemies come in 3 waves per arena. As you defeat enemies, new health packs and weapon power-ups appear, which are absolutely necessary to survive. Your weapons include lasers, rail guns, bombs, and flame throwers. You can hand select a weapon at the bottom of the screen or just let the game automatically select the strongest weapon for you. The enemy mobs are relentless and you’ll spend considerable time running around each arena hunting for health. That being said, no one enemy is too difficult to destroy with the right power-ups, even bosses. The fighting is pretty intense, but thankfully, games can be paused and saved for later. As difficult as things are, the game is a blast, especially on easy.
Graphics for AArena are kind of an ugly techno green for the front page and menus, but are bright and crisp during the actual battles. All backgrounds are detailed and look good, as do ships and weapon effects. The effects for flame throwers and your ship’s engine look particularly good. The options set for AArena is also fantastic. All 3 arenas are instantly selectable to start on. You’ll find options for vibrations and for sounds and effects equalizers. If things start to feel too cramped, you can even remove the on screen thumpads and crosshairs. JDTec even added the ability to change these settings in the middle of a game. It’s little details like this that set great games apart from the rest. Although there is an online manual (which gives you more details on enemies and weapons), there’s no online highscore ranking. It’s a minor complaint.
The music for Annihilation Arena is just as excellent as the gameplay. In fact, this is some of the best music I’ve heard for any iPhone game. Each arena has a different techno theme and all are very good, although the ice arena’s theme is my favorite. The tracks go perfectly with the action; iPod support would actually detract from the experience on this one. I did, however, run into a couple of sound glitches (one where an explosion got “stuck” and one where music just cuts out) that could only be fixed through closing and reopening the app.
Other than the sound issues above, I ran into another glitch when the app crashes after beating an arena. When you reopened, the option to continue to the next arena is gone and you’ll have to start all over! These minor glitches never really detract from the fun though, and hopefully they’ll be addressed in an update. Overall, AArena is pure fun. Any action fan should have a great time here.