Endless upgrades, star ratings, in-app purchases and bags of customisation features. It's amazing how cluttered the average mobile game is with all sorts of bumpf. Gridrunner has absolutely none of this, and the closest it gets to a tutorial is an attract mode. It's not old-school. It's OLD-SCHOOL, with no time for fuss.
Gridrunner was originally programmed for the Vic-20, and this iOS version includes newly spiffed-up versions of both that and the Commodore 64 version. Despite the old-school visuals these are a great bonus, accessed by turning your iDevice to landscape view. But the main event in Gridrunner iOS is 'pure' mode, where Llamasoft - Jeff Minter - transplants the old Gridrunner elements into the portrait view of classic arcade shooters.
Like all of Minter's games, Gridrunner requires a brief period of acclimatisation - working out the bloops and blops, figuring out what to shoot, what to grab, what to look out for. It's a smooth learning curve thanks to the gorgeously deft control scheme, which has the ship autofiring while you control its movements with a single digit.
A super-smart level select system lets you choose exactly what intensity you want the game to start at, a feature every shooter should steal.
Your finger can be placed anywhere on the screen, and the speed and accuracy of its movements are captured exactly in the ship's movements, a gooey inertia during slight adjustments or a whizzing dash away from a war zone. The game also features iCade support, but that's just the cherry on the cake.
By the time you've nailed the controls, you've also learned what to look for. Gridrunner's a strange mix of twitch shooter and puzzler where your constant blasting can be made exponentially more efficient by recognising and exploiting the ever-shifting background terrain.