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Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork is what would probably happen if a quirky cartoon series was suddenly invaded by a host of goofy aliens trained by the kamikaze pilots from classic arcade blasters Galaxian and Galaga. The hero of the hour—a bipedal, three-eyed fellow wearing a talking backpack with automatic weaponry—must defend his asteroid from countless terrors intending on blowing it to bits. It’s here where you come in, guiding the purple protector left and right, blasting pulsating alien formations and occasionally having him leap about a bit in order to avoid swooping foes.
Only it’s not quite that easy, because chances are you’ll die. In fact, you tend to die quite often in Glorkian Warrior, because along with borrowing alien attack patterns from the 1980s, it’s also pilfered that era’s punishing difficulty levels. It was several games before we managed to get beyond a handful of enemy waves, which we discovered were soon complicated by boss battles and tiny aliens that roam the asteroid’s surface, spewing fire. Your survival can be fractionally lengthened by temporary power-ups, although these sometimes frustrate, messing with your aim by turning your shots into V-shapes or wiggly lines. A saner alternative difficulty level is mercifully on offer, although it would be more accurately named "Not Quite As Insanely Hard" rather than Easy.
Fortunately, Glorkian Warrior has enough going for it that it’s worth sticking with if you don’t immediately hurl your iPhone at the wall in sheer frustration. Beyond the fun artwork, there’s a gentle humor infused throughout the game, from the burbling noises the protagonist makes through to the little scripted elements that introduce many runs. There’s also some really smartly judged content unlocks, based on the number of glowing “crackers” collected during all games up until that point. The fresh unlocks vary and include new weapon types, comics by cartoonist James Kochalka (who also designed the in-game graphics), and events such as Tetris-brick downpours.
It’s a clever means of keeping you plugging away, even when the game is intent on smashing your brains out with a brick, laughing mercilessly as your little alien gets a kicking for the umpteenth time—and all for having the temerity to try and defend his little slice of space.
The bottom line. Glorkian Warrior is a sweet-natured, old-school shooter with a sting in its tail in the shape of a harsh difficulty level. It’s fun but also frustrating, even on the so-called easy setting.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Simple blasting fun. Inventive and great-looking hand-drawn art. Clever progression rewards repeat play.
Overly punishing. Jumping is awkward. Ground-based enemies too easily obscured on iPhone.