Recall, if you will, the glorious top-down shooters of yesteryear, like 1942. (If you can't recall, stop reading this - it's past your bedtime, kid.) Now shift the perspective by 90 degrees and add a considerable amount of crazy, and you get Gray Fin Studios' MiniSquadron. It's a charming, addictive little game, and our App of the Week, considering that we'll need lots of airport distractions on the way to CES 2012.
The game is deceptively simple: steer your plane with your left thumb and shoot with the right. Each level consists of 12 waves of flying enemies, everything from ducks to flying saucers, in increasingly difficult circumstances. Rudimentary physics rule both your plane and your foes: fly too high and you'll stall, but get aligned again and you'll be flying right. Turn upside down sharply, and you'll perform an automatic Immelmann, ready to go guns blazing at an enemy behind you.
And oh, there are so many guns. Depending upon which plane in your squadron you choose, you get a single, double or triple cannon, homing missiles, cluster bombs, dropping bombs, and (whoop!) lasers. Each of the 50+ unlockable planes gets a unique combination of armor, speed and weapon, and with so many to collect you'll want to try out a different one on each of the eight levels. Power-ups like speed, health, 1ups, and a gigantic screen-filling beam ocassionally drop into play, but you'll need to be quick to get them before your enemies do.
The whole game is wrapped in charmingly simple animation, sound effects and tinkly interpretations of classical music. It's perfect for a quick play in line, and addictive enough to stick with you through the higher levels, which can get quite challenging. The main game is $2.99 on the Android Market, with a sequel, MiniSquadron Special Edition, at the same price. To get a taste of the gameplay, you can try MiniSquadron Lite for free.