Gameloft's Siberian Strike Episode II, like many mobile game sequels, is more of an expansion pack than an actual follow-up, providing three more levels to the popular, though very conventional top-down shooter. Cell games can only be so big, so larger titles must take a Kill Bill-style approach to get the complete game to the customer. The Siberian Strike game is a passable experience--provided you pony up the money to buy both episodes. On its own, this shooter is incredibly short and lacks variety.
Siberian Strike Episode II continues the adventures of Eliot, an ace American pilot out to stop the evil Russian empire. The storyline is paper thin and it is really just an excuse to destroy as much property as possible.
The game provides three levels, starting with Level 4, and each level is split into two sections that last about two minutes each. If you fly through each level perfectly, Siberian Strike Episode II can be completed in less than 15 minutes. Level 4 takes place on the Russian seaboard, filled with high cliffs, exploding Russian citadels, and watery graves. Level 5 is in an underground base carved into a mountain, layered with railroad tracks for enemies to traverse. The final level is the enemy's base, composed of blue steel and embedded gun turrets.
Playing a shooter can be a mindless experience, and Gameloft doesn't make an effort to complicate things. Onscreen items include your score, lives left, and bombs remaining. You can activate bombs by pressing 0 on the keypad and charge up your special wide laser by holding down the fire key. Sound, as well as autofire, can be toggled on the in-game option screen, but there isn't a difficulty setting--an unfortunate omission in a game so short.
Weaponry is also a no-brainer, since there is only one type of ammo. Your basic two-shooter can be upgraded a couple of times by collecting POW icons from destroyed land and enemies. However, the spread never gets to be as powerful as that in some other shooters, like Taito's classic Sky Shark. In other words, no matter how many icons you collect, you'll never really own the sky.
Siberian Strike Episode II excels in two areas: action and atmosphere. Five seconds into the game you have to negotiate a swarm of enemy planes monopolizing the screen, while later in the game it's not unusual for tanks and other adversaries to take potshots at you before they fully get onscreen. Like any good shooter, the game gets hard very quickly. The game handles the onscreen chaos well, never slowing down for a second.
The atmosphere of a 1940s air battle is perfect. Little details like the hyperbolic war rhetoric and the graphic cameo of Eliot, clad in an army hat, make Siberian Strike Episode II a fun experience while it lasts. The in-game warnings from your colleague are especially funny: "Beware. A big bomber approaches...Its ammunition is really huge!" The battles with the three-level bosses will satisfy any professional pilot. The adversaries include a large plane straight out of Capcom's 1942 and a tank with several big guns. The surprise last boss is an interesting challenge as well.
Siberian Strike Episode II's major flaw, other than its lack of length, is its sound. There is no music, and the sound effects are tiny little pops and gurgles on the Nokia 6600. It's too bad that Gameloft didn't take as much time with the sound as it obviously did with the graphics.
Fans of the original Siberian Strike should grab this sequel, which they will undoubtedly enjoy. Other gamers, however, will feel like they are getting half of a game. More content would have made Siberian Strike Episode II stand on its own; instead, it's just the second half of a single narrative.