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Game Day: Steredenn

I live near a huge arcade called the Galloping Ghost that’s packed with classic arcade games. I visit once or twice a year and am always struck by how hard some of the early space shooters, like Defender, are. I got the same feeling the moment I launched Steredenn, a fast-paced, insanely difficult space shooter from French indie game studio Pixelnest that is equal parts addictive and fun.

Steredenn debuted on consoles and Steam first, which initially made me a little leery of how it would play on iOS. Too many game developers port console games to iOS without paying enough attention to the fundamental differences between consoles and iOS. Fortunately, Pixelnest took the time to get the controls right with Steredenn.

Your ship follows the direction you drag your thumb on the left half of the screen. If your ship gets under your thumb, Steredenn displays horizontal and vertical lines that extend across the entire screen so you can still tell where your ship is, which works well. Shooting your weapons, switching weapons, and picking up items are all controlled using your right thumb – tap or continuously press to shoot, swipe vertically to change weapons, and double tap to grab items dropped by enemies.

There is a rogue-like element to Steredenn too, which kept me coming back to play it over and over. Each level is, as Pixelnest describes it, ‘practically randomly generated’ and infinite. You’re immediately faced with an onslaught of asteroids, enemy spacecraft with all sorts of weapons, and other obstacles that are different every time you play. Eventually, you will die and have to start over against different enemies, trying each time to get a little further and beat your high score.

The entire experience of Steredenn is wrapped in a beautiful pixel art package and accompanied by a heavy metal soundtrack that adds to the frenetic pace of the game. Along the way, there are 25 ship upgrades and 35 different weapons to discover and boss fights that can be very tough. Get past a boss though, and you’re rewarded with new powers and abilities to help you in the next stage.

Not everything in Steredenn is random. There is a Daily Run, where players compete to control the leaderboard for a run where everyone is faced with the same obstacles and bosses. There is also an Arena mode where you can train against bosses you beat in the normal game mode, which can make subsequent runs through the default mode easier.

I don’t try as many arcade-style games as I once did because it’s so hard to find good ones that work well on iOS, which is why Steredenn has been such a pleasant surprise. It succeeds through a combination of attention to detail and the depth of the experience, which is unusual for most arcade-style games. If you’re up for some crazy space mayhem, I highly recommend Steredenn, which is available on the App Store.

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