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Gemini Strike

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Rating: 4.4/5 (25 votes)
Comments (5) | Views (28,673)

Gemini Strike

DoraGemini Strike is one of those games you sort of feel missed its calling in an arcade cabinet, because everything about this gorgeous free-to-play iOS sci-fi shooter from Armor Games brings back fond memories of my days spent losing the entirety of my allowance (and begging for more) to the machines in the convenience store and the laundromat. In it, you pilot a ship against a fleet of dandy space robots. And I don't mean that they're awesome, although they sort of are apart from the whole "genocide" thing, I mean that they're literally dandies, or at least lead by them, with waistcoats, roses, and bad poetry. Your job is to survive each level, taking down as many of the enemy's ships (and any huge bosses!) in the process, and controlling couldn't be simpler. Hold your finger on the screen, and your ship will fire automatically and follow your digit where'er it doth go. Double-tap to unleash any power-ups, and nab blue credits when you see them to spend on unlocking cargo containers of new equipment for your ship... though some cargo containers can only be unlocked with credits. You get one credit per day, and one credit for clearing a sector, as well as any more you pick up for completing successful bonus missions. If you fail a mission by, y'know, exploding, you can either spend a credit to keep playing, or choose to retreat and lose a heart, of which you have four that replenish at one per every fifteen minutes.

Gemini StrikeNo bones about it, Gemini Strike is a gorgeous game whose frenetic action and combination of retro-styled ships with explosive visual effects perfectly captures the thrill of classic arcade games. Its simple control scheme makes it easy to pick up, and the ability to customise your ship with different equipment to suit your play-style and compensate for your weaknesses is a great touch. Each item you can sock into your ship has a different effect in addition to typically boosting your stats a bit, so you can find cargo that deploys shields when your health is low, or shoots out missiles every few seconds, or even restores your health. The biggest problem for Gemini Strike, however, might be the grinding to afford new cargo and upgrade what you've got, and the fact that you're almost always going to get better equipment from the credit-only cargo boxes. Credits are doled out very slowly unless you pay for them, and if you do pay for them, their cost feels inordinately expensive for how many you receive versus how many you need. It really feels like it needed a one-time purchase option that would unlock everything, because Gemini Strike is a game I would have happily thrown top app store cost at rather than wait on timers.

Initially, you'll probably find yourself dying a lot until you get some decent equipment and get it upgraded. Gemini Strike very much subscribes to the bullet-double-hockeysticks side of the shooter genre, and you'll need to fly fast and accurate to evade all types hazards like mines and asteroids, and different kinds of enemy projectiles, like homing missiles or electric blasts that temporarily stun you. Levels are short and brutally quick, and even shake things up a bit by sometimes stripping your weapons and forcing you to fly through blockades or blink-and-you're-toast minefields. Though the bosses all feel a little samey in a way that had me longing for big unpredictable crazy space beasts a la Gradius III, the game's sense of humour and storyline is a great touch that adds a lot of personality. Though the timers and credits can be frustrating, Gemini Strike hits all the right notes to be a rock-solid arcade game well worth taking out for a spin and an explosion or three... thousand.

Download on the AppstoreGemini Strike (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)


Great review, thanks Dora!

Emerald Hawk October 6, 2014 11:24 PM

I'm about halfway through the game, so I thought I'd shares some tips and my own experiences. My experience is only with the version of the game out when this review was written, not version 1.0.11 or later. This update apparently increases the gem cost of level 4 and 5 upgrades so I'm holding off on installing it.

First off, some things that the game should tell you, but doesn't:

Each class of unlockable ship has not just the listed stat bonuses and special abilities, but also a different primary weapon. The Odin class ships (Bjorn & Anvindr) have a homing primary weapon with a much slower rate of fire than that of the starting ship (Strike Eagle). I'd estimate its dps is about a quarter to a third of that of the Strike Eagle, but since every shot hits, you end up doing more damage in some circumstances.

The Odin shield on the Bjorn and Anvindr recharges in 30 seconds, just like the Ion Shield on items with the "Static Shield" ability. It's on the same trigger and timer as those items as well, so you can't make yourself invincible by equipping 4 of them to an Odin class ship. Also, if you are hit by a single attack which would drop you from above 15% to below 0 hp, you are instead left at 1 hp with your shield active.

Next, some very slightly spoilerish tips:

Don't give up early if the game seems hard!

The game's difficultly ramps up quickly, but basically levels off after sector 11 or so. There is one boss in either sector 7 or 11 that is extremely difficult. It fires a wide spread of purple shots, as well as homing EMP chains that stun. The only way I beat it was that one attempt, after my wingman died, the EMP chains seemed to be much less effective in tracking me. I was suddenly able to dodge them easily and beat the boss.

After that, the game never gets any harder. You do need to keep getting new items to keep pace with the enemies. However, it hasn't taken me more than 10 attempts or so to beat any other bosses in the next 40 sectors.

Bosses are immune to all status effects, as well as critical hits and Vampire strike. So, when facing a boss, your best bet is healing over time and defense items, or just raw stat boosts. I have a few items I switch in and out, for boss vs. non-boss levels. But I always spend gems on boss items first, since bosses are much harder than the regular levels.

The above mentioned Odin shield made the Anvindr a worthwhile purchase for me. It combos well with items that heal you when you are stationary. You can safely freeze in place when invincible, and your homing shots will still track enemies when you are motionless hiding in a corner.

I'm a little scared to blow my credits on any other ship. All the other abilities are offensive in nature and don't sound like they will help very much on boss fights.

The one critical skill you need to master in the game is dodging homing projectiles. If you just stay as far from them as possible and dodge in wide circles, they will continue following you for several seconds. This is bad, and gives your enemies time to launch new ones at you. Instead, you must dodge them quickly at the last moment, and get behind them. This will cause them to lose their lock and fly off much sooner.

The story starts off kind of hokey, but gets more serious as you go along. It also gets more slower paced (I often have to go an entire sector between cutscenes) but with the flat difficulty this doesn't bother me so much.

Given how non-existent or awful the storylines are to most shmups, I'd say this one comes in at well above average. My main complaint is that the only way you advance the storyline is by destroying the endless, interchangeable minions of the Imperial Hierarchy. This starts to feel increasingly silly after a while.

Emerald Hawk October 20, 2014 7:37 PM

Finished the game, and I can share a few more ship reviews.

Sakura Class (Shizuka, Banshour, Raikou):
Rating: 2/5
Primary weapon: High rate of fire, low damage.

The Raikou is advertised as the highest damage ship in the game. I suppose this might be true, but the difference isn't that noticeable. The Sakura's rate of fire is around twice as fast as the Strike Eagle's, but each shot only does about half as much damage. Unfortunately this is all the ship has going for it. The "powerful" Sonic Blast is an underwhelming single shot that doesn't do much more damage than the primary weapon.

Corsair Class (Golden Claw, Sapphire Sting, Silver Fang):
Rating: 4/5
Primary weapon: Piercing stun.

The Corsair class's weapon isn't just more powerful in terms of damage (about twice as much per shot as the Strike Eagle), it also stuns and passes through enemies. The stun only lasts about a second, but it's enough to keep an elite permanently locked down if used aggressively. The shots also seem to have a wide hit box that can help when facing groups of smaller enemies. The DPS against bosses is acceptable, maybe a little worse than the Strike Eagle. The Golden Claw's damage boost mitigates this somewhat.

The auto-hex shield is gravy on an already solid choice of ship. It can definitely save your bacon, but it's not a get out of jail free card like the Odin Shield.

At only 15 credits, this is a good choice early game.

Eidolon Class (Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior):
Rating: 1/5
Primary weapon: Scatter shot

If you are looking for a spread shot that bathes half the screen in withering plasma fire, you are out of luck. The Eidolon's scatter shot does the same damage as the Strike Eagle, but sprays it around randomly. The rate of fire might be slightly higher, but it's not enough to make up for the loss of aiming. While it's amusing to have to engage enemies at point blank range in order to be assured of hitting them, this is not a strategy that leads to long term survival.

Performance against bosses is predictably terrible. The laser blast is also nothing special.

Odin Class (Bjorn, Anvindr):
Rating: 4/5
Primary Weapon: Homing shot

See my previous post.

It may take longer to take down elites and bosses, but it's quite a bit safer. The homing shots allow you to maintain damage while dodging wildly or even circle strafing.

The Odin shield is basically an extra life every thirty seconds, as long as you have some way to heal yourself. This includes items that heal when you "take damage", as any shots blocked by the Odin shield can still cause those healing abilities to activate.

So far, the Corsair and Odin classes are the only ones worth buying.

Emerald Hawk October 29, 2014 7:52 PM

Storm Class (Hannover, Leipzig, Ravenstein, Siegfried, Fellbach):
Rating: 0/5
Primary weapon: Slow shot
Talk about a trap option. The Storm class's rate of fire is less than half that of the Strike Eagle, but they forgot to boost the damage of each shot accordingly. The result is a ship that is flat out worse than the free starting ship, doing half as much damage. If I paid $13 for this garbage I would want my money back.

The dual Electro chains are just purple homing shots that do not stun and reload in 6 seconds.

Story Spoiler:
If you are bored with the game and just want to find out how the story ends, read on:

You become increasingly good friends with the pirate, Iris. She eventually puts you in touch with an Imperial prince. You agree to help him fake his own death in exchange for the location of the Empress. The plan succeeds, and you pass the location of the Empress up to Major Brightman.

Your tour of duty ends, but (surprise!) Major Brightman won't let you retire.

While investigating your headaches, the doctor can't find the "real" you, and then she mysteriously disappears. Ren thinks she was murdered by the Alliance higher ups, to protect the secret that you are actually being held in a detention cell somewhere and not vacationing on an island.

Ren and Iris organize a rescue for the real you, but it turns out to be a trap. Major Brightman ambushes them, killing Ren and mortally wounding Iris. He reveals that the real you actually died six years ago, possibly due to complications of the cloning process (this part is never really explained). Iris then manages to kill Major Brightman and escape.

Iris follows you, refusing to seek medical attention, and your character refuses to turn around to help her (possibly because you're a dick, possibly because you think the alliance will activate a failsafe in your brain that removes your free will and turns you into an obedient automaton). Iris eventually dies of her injuries.

You are so distraught that you basically tell the Alliance to activate their failsafe, as having free will is too painful. You then play through the last 50 sectors with almost no storyline, and your character never speaks again.

Along the way, your mom dies. It's implied that your fight with the Empire spans dozens, if not hundreds of years.

You eventually reach the Empress. She reveals that the Alliance attacked the Empire first, but at this point both sides have committed atrocities and it no longer matters. She seems resigned to her fate, as you have basically destroyed the Empire at this point. After you defeat the Empress, a final cut scene tries to display, but due to a bug the message closed immediately before I could read it. As far as I can tell this bug happens to everyone, hopefully they will fix it in the next version.


Thanks very much for the story spoilers! It's good to know I'm not missing out on anything interesting.


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