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Mini Squadron - Exclusive preview

MiniSquadron is already a hit on iOS and Android devices. Microsoft approached the game’s creator, UK-based Supermono Studios, and asked them to bring the game to Xbox Live. Supermono promptly teamed up with Fat Pebble to do the conversion. We spoke to Fat Pebble about the game, and now we’re bringing you this exclusive preview.

MiniSquadron, as you might expect, involves planes. Lots of ‘em. Players battles hoards of aerial opponents in a two-dimensional space. Controlling the plane is as simple as changing the pitch (the angle of its nose) with a virtual analog stick. This lets you pull off a variety of loops and other maneuvers as you chase down enemy planes and dodge oncoming attacks. Just don’t fly too high or the plane will stall and nosedive; hit the ground and you’ll crash and burn. Horizontal level boundaries just bounce planes safely away.

Incoming fire won’t bounce off so safely, though players and enemies alike can take a few shots before going down. Every aircraft comes equipped with one of seven weapon types, including cannons, missiles, fireballs, lasers, and more. Each type has its own variations, with different damage, firing speed, and range. Blasting enemies without getting hit yourself increases a combo multiplier, so skillful players will earn higher scores.

Fly past the jump for screenshots and details about MiniSquadron’s new Windows Phone features.

Modes

MiniSquadron has two modes: Classic and Survival. In Classic, gamers start with three lives and must survive twelve waves of enemies on a single map. It's possible to get more lives by picking up the heart icons, but don't follow them into enemy fire! Make it to the end and several classic stages culminate with one-on-one boss battles. Survival pits the player against endless waves of enemy aircraft. Survival should be pretty competitive thanks to Xbox Live Leaderboards.

Something to fight for

Not everyone wants to fight for high scores. Thankfully MiniSquadron has a huge set of aircraft for players to unlock (only one is available from the outset). Each plane has its own ratings in speed, armor, turning, so they all handle quite differently. They come equipped with a variety of weapons, too.

As for the selection of aircraft, there are over 60 to win, including boss planes. Some of MiniSquadron’s aircraft designs get really creative, to include UFOs and the Windows Phone-exclusive Freeze Willy, a flying killer whale.

Graphics and sound

The silly unlockable aircraft are part of MiniSquadron’s cartoonish charm. Planes have a 3D rendered look while the backgrounds feature colorful hand-drawn art. A whopping twelve planes can be on-screen at once, plus ducks! Special effects like smoke trails and screen-shaking explosions add some extra punch to the chaos.

MiniSquadron’s music is also noteworthy. Most mobile games only come with one or two songs, but MiniSquadron has a whopping ten tunes. Each one is a midi version of a famous classical tune, including the especially appropriate Flight of the Valkyries. I’ve always wondered why more indie games don’t use classical tunes – they stand the test of time and reside in the public domain to boot. Instead, they often throw in a single song that gets old after about a minute (Helloooo Flight Control).

Windows Phone 7 features

The developers put lots of effort into making sure the game plays and runs very smoothly on Windows Phone. They also tweaked the menu system to match the Xbox Live look and feel. Resuming, an aspect some developers tend to forget (Namco), is handled perfectly here – if the player receives a call, locks the screen etc., the game will automatically save and provide the option to resume when the game starts again.

Because Xbox Live games don’t support multiplayer yet, this version of MiniSquadron lacks the original’s two-player local Wi-Fi battles. To make up for this omission, Fat Pebble has added some significant new content. Snow Hope is a brand-new level with its own unique music and end boss. Seven new planes like the Freeze Willy give players something extra to shoot for - and shoot with, once they’ve got them. And of course, Xbox Live Achievements and Leaderboards come along for the ride.

Preparing for take off

MiniSquadron is nearing the end of the Xbox Live certification process, so a release date hasn’t been set yet. We do know it will cost $2.99 at launch. The free trial allows players to try the entire first world and unlock up to 8 planes, so Xbox Live fans should definitely take it for a test flight.

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Mini Squadron - Exclusive preview

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