I love puzzle games and have seen some great ones debut on the App Store recently, but now and then, I want to play something different. This week, different meant Glitchskier, an endless runner-style arcade shooter by Shelly Alon. It has an off-kilter video game glitch aesthetic and challenging gameplay that together, hooked me immediately.
From the get-go, Glitchskier takes you back to early PC hardware. The screen is distorted to look like you’re playing on a curved, low-resolution CRT monitor. If the CRT look is too much for you, it can be turned off in settings. In the background, a dull hum and whir of electronics and fan blades add to the atmosphere. It’s an opinionated design that goes all-in with the retro PC look, which may turn off some people initially, but drew me in as soon as I started playing.
To start Glitchskier, you double tap a Windows-style folder and then glitchskier.exe. The gameplay is reminiscent of spaceship shooter games like Galaga. You maneuver your spaceship by dragging your finger around the screen. At the same time, the environment advances down the screen, endless runner-style. That, and the enemies that descend from the top of the screen, make avoiding your ship’s destruction difficult.
Your guns shoot automatically as long as your finger is on the screen. The more things you destroy, the higher your score climbs. As you move through the landscape, there are also weapons to collect that help you defeat enemies and bosses. Make it far enough, and you begin to unlock different colored themes too.
Part of the novelty of Glitchskier is the environment through which you fly your spaceship. The screen is littered with computer glitch obstacles like random characters that form barriers. The chaotic universe and enemies relentlessly descending on you is disorienting at first, but quickly becomes familiar and comfortable when you figure out what can be blasted to bits and what you need to avoid.
The unforgiving onslaught of enemies keeps you on your toes and requires split-second decisions. The sense of urgency is heightened by a synth soundtrack that fits perfectly with the game’s aesthetic and reminds me a little of the excellent Stranger Things soundtrack. But Glitchskier is more than just an homage to 80s arcade games. Beneath its carefully-crafted design is a fun game that’s easy to learn and extremely hard to master. The combination of the two sucks you into Glitchskier’s crazy world in a thoroughly entertaining way.
Glitchskier is available on the App Store for $1.99.