enfrdeitptrues

Shoot 'em Up

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Pawarumi
    Developed by: Manufacture 43
    Published by: Manufacture 43
    Release date: July 24, 2019
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Arcade
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Manufacture 43 for sending us this game to review!

    Pawarumi‘s story is nothing special, but it’s serviceable. The Council is ruling the world with an iron fist and it’s up to Axo, the pilot of the best ship in the world, Chukaru, to make things right again. Along the way, a dark secret will be revealed, but how will Axo respond?

    To separate Pawarumi from other shoot 'em ups, it uses an interesting trinity mechanic that’s very similar to Rock-Paper-Scissors. Chukaru has three deity infused weapons: Serpent (green), Condor (blue), and Jaguar (red). There is also an ultimate attack that is quite devastating, but requires charging up before use.

    The enemies are equipped with red, green, and blue paint jobs and depending on what you color weapon you fire at them, different things will happen. The tough part is keeping it all straight since there are no on-screen legends to guide you. There is an indicator on the bottom of which color weapon you should use, but it changes quite often.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting combination of Rock-Paper-Scissors and shoot 'em ups; good music
    Weak Points: No on-screen reminders of what the weapons do; only four levels
    Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence; Axo wears skintight clothing that shows off her figure; references to deities 

    The controls remain consistent with the A button launching the red missiles, B shooting the green gun, and the Y button firing the blue laser. If you have enough energy, you can press X to launch the super attack.

    If you fire the same color weapon as the enemy, your ship’s shield will recharge. Not only is this the easiest to memorize, but it’s also probably the most useful as you only have one life in this game and no ability to resume your progress across the four levels. When your shield is depleted, it’s game over and you get to enter your name on the Switch’s (local only!) leaderboard.

    To do extra damage (crush) to the enemies you have to use the green weapon on red enemies, red on blue foes, and blue on green adversaries. To recharge your super attack (drain) you’ll want to use this combination: red on green enemies, green on blue foes, and blue on red adversaries. You can charge your super weapon up to three levels.

    Pawarumi
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    The levels are colorful and nicely detailed. There’s plenty of variety between them to keep things interesting. There are both large and small enemies to shoot at and many of them fire back at you. It’s in your best interest to avoid their pink bullets. The bosses are intimidating and often have several targets to fire at.

    The background music varies and is well done. If you fall in love with the music and want to own it, it’s available for purchase on Steam for $5.99. The other sound effects are fitting and sound good.

    Since this game is a shooter, ship explosions and violence is a given. Although not seen, violent acts like beheading enemies are described in the dialogue. There are references to other deities, but not our Lord.

    If you’re good at shoot 'em ups, Pawarumi won’t keep you occupied very long with its four levels. As you beat a level, the next one becomes available in a training mode to hone your skills on. All in all, this is a fun game, but you may need to keep a cheat sheet handy until you get the hang of the trinity mechanics.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Quad Fighter K
    Developed By: Happymeal, Inc.
    Published By: Aksys Games
    Released: May 31, 2018
    Available On: Switch
    Genre: Arcade, Shoot 'Em Up
    ESRB Rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
    Number of Players: Up to 4 offline
    Price: $7.99

    Thanks to Aksys Games for sending us this game!

    Quad Fighter K is a mix of classic and creativity. It takes a tired format and reshapes it to its own accord. Built off a sort of Space Invaders style, Quad Fighter K has a simple premise: get from point A to point B. It operates on a sort of up-scroller, with you and the level constantly traveling up. You're free to move vertically and horizontally on this traveling up world, as you dodge enemies and bullets. But QFK is different in the way it handles ships.

    In this game is something called a KYOGEKI system. The KYOGEKI system allows you to connect all four ships together. Each ship has its own special ability. Some fire lasers, some fire sphere like bombs that explode after traveling a short distance, some fire bullets, but each ship has its own different gun pattern. When you combine these ships together, the results can be pretty amazing. I once found a combination that fires 2 lasers from the front, and could also lay down heavy bullet fire from the right and left sides of it to keep my blind-spots clear. But there are so many other combinations there that you can try.

    There are two different modes, with two sub-modes. The two modes are KYOGEKI and Attack respectively. KYOGEKI mode follows 3 ships and a "VIP" ship. Your job is to clear all the stages while protecting the VIP ship. Every stage your VIP ship has 9 lives, while your 3 normal ships have infinite lives. If you manage to clear a stage without losing your VIP ship, on the next stage it will have its full 9 lives again.

    Attack mode allows you to play all levels without having to protect a VIP ship. However, all ships only have 5 lives. Now, let's talk about the sub-modes. Arcade lets you play a sort of story mode. You progress through each stage, getting harder as you go along. There's also Battle mode, where you choose which stage you want to play and go for the highest score. Both of these exist under the KYOGEKI or Attack mode, so in essence you can choose if you want to play them with the VIP ship or without. Personally, I found Attack mode more fun, but this is just my opinion.

    Quad Fighter K
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast and fluid gameplay; interesting system of weapons that allow many combinations
    Weak Points: Can get a bit tedious; too many distracting effects
    Moral Warnings: Some light cartoon violence

    As you progress through the stages, you'll fight different enemies before reaching bosses. Each stage has 2 bosses, one mini-boss and a stronger boss. Each boss has different abilities and patterns. Enemies and bosses also can drop bombs that can be used to, well, blow things up. These bombs have different patterns for each one, although there are only 4 patterns that I've seen.

    The graphics in this game are a very simple and colorful callback to the NES era. With an 8-bit presence that feels nostalgic, QFK has a great assortment of sprites and effects. The animation feels incredibly fluid and well polished.

    The audio in this game reminds me a lot of the NES era as well. The music is a very upbeat 8-bit style, reminding you how limited technology was back then. The melodies are nice but a bit forgetful.

    Controls also feel very fluid, with no appreciable delay. It has simple back and forth, left and right movement, with other buttons for disengaging the KYOGEKI system (which breaks the ship into singular entities again), one to use bombs and one to shoot. Now, let's move into the cons.

    The only real issue I have with this game is some visual choices. In this game, some of the world itself can be blown up. These are just small tiles, but they can be blown up nonetheless. My issue is that every single time a tile or enemy is blown up, a distracting explosion effect is shown. The problem becomes evident when EVERYTHING starts to have an explosion. Below is a screenshot of said issue.

    Quad Fighter K
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 96%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - -10/10

    However, there is no morally improper content in this game. The violence isn't gory, there's no sexual content or language; it's a pretty clean game. One minor bug I found was this one below, where it seems the tiles weren't linking up properly and creating that black line effect you see. I only saw it once, so either I couldn't recreate this bug or I didn't notice it again.

    But, I got a bonus game with QFK. It's called Cyber Ship Nakku (which I shall call CSN), and it is simply QFK but worse in every single way. It's easy enough to get into, as you can simply find it on the main title screen. But QFK looks like a NES game, the graphics are much sharper and more colorful. CSN however, just looks like a port of a NES game. The controls are also horrid; so bad that it feels like you're piloting a ship that's skidding on ice. The hit detection is awful, with most shots not even registering on enemies. And yet again while QFK sounded like an NES game, it still had improvements. CSN still sounds like a direct port of an NES game. There's only one or two ships in this game, the second ship being controlled by a second player.

    I could go on about why this game is bad, but I don't even have the interest in doing so. I don't know why they felt putting the bonus game in was a good idea, because it entirely ruins everything that made QFK good. Thankfully, it's just a bonus game. You still have normal QFK.

    In closing, QFK is a game designed on a format from the past, with a sprinkle of originality, but feels a bit generic and overdone.

    - Remington

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Quantum Pilot
    Developed By: Quantum Productions
    Published By: Quantum Productions
    Released: October 20, 2017
    Available On: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android
    Genre: Shoot ‘em up
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: Single-player, 2 player local
    Price: $0.99

    Thanks to Quantum Productions for the Steam key for review!

    Quantum Pilot has to be one of the more interesting games I have played recently. The concept it goes for is something that hasn’t really been done before, and it does it surprisingly well for what looks like a side project. The game is flawed in several ways, but I can forgive it because of its solid execution on a weird idea.

    The core mechanic in Quantum Pilot is that the enemies are all copies of your previous self. Each time you kill a wave of enemies, a new wave will spawn with one extra enemy that mirrors your movements from last time. Because of this, the game almost acts as a puzzle game. You have to make sure what you’re shooting now is possible to be dodged later. The game only gets as difficult as you make it, since you basically are making your own bullet patterns to dodge. It’s difficult to explain this mechanic well and you really have to see it in action to get it.

    Quantum Pilot
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique concept executed well
    Weak Points: Terrible UI and menus; boring visuals; can be repetitive
    Moral Warnings: Combat violence

    There are two game modes. The first is shuffle. In shuffle, every time you hold down the shoot button, it essentially pauses the game. This lets you shoot more careful patterns and helps you slow things down to dodge as well. For people that want to rely a little bit less on reflexes, this mode works well. The second mode is Onslaught. It’s the same thing as shuffle, except shooting doesn’t cause the game to pause. Everything in Onslaught is in real time and plays a bit quicker. Both modes have the same loop of “survive as long as possible”. There is an end to a game of Quantum Pilot, but the game is pretty difficult, so I have yet to make it that far.

    You can play in local co-op with a second player. We were able to both use controllers. When one player dies, instead of ending the run the other player can try to beat the wave of enemies themselves. If the other player beats the wave, the dead player respawns. In Onslaught, co-op mode worked perfectly and felt great. Shuffle was kind of a mess. The pausing when you shoot mechanic completely breaks with two people. Sometimes the ships will both stop moving when one person shoots, other times neither player stops, and sometimes just the player shooting will stop. The game can’t figure out what to do with itself in this mode.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Quantum Pilot is a mess in a lot of ways. The menus and UI are just ugly junks of text. There’s only one soundtrack that loops, and sounds are…okay. Sometimes text from menus would remain on the screen for a little while when in a run. Weirdly enough, despite all this, the game isn’t that buggy. It’s just not visually appealing for the most parts with its singular color use and bad menus. The controls are perfect and feel tight though.

    There’s nothing to say for morality. The only violence is shapes shooting other shapes with more shapes. There’s no blood, cursing, or anything to take note of. All in all, I would recommend Quantum Pilot. For a dollar you’re getting an incredibly unique and simplistic experience that has some UI issues. It’s fun and different, and I’d say worth a shot.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry
    Developer: Two Tribes
    Published by: Two Tribes Publishing
    Release Date: September 13, 2016
    Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, macOS X, Linux
    Genre: Action, Twin Stick Shooter, Platformer
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E for Everyone, fantasy violence, mild language.
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

    Thank you Two Tribes for the review code.

    I hate it when something's short and sweet; you want more and when you find out you won't get any more of it, you just end up disappointed. Today's title, RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry is just that, a sweet treat that is over just as quickly as it began. Lets dive right into the wreckage and see what treasures we can pull out of this game.

    RIVE puts you in the role of a simple space trucker who loves video games. During a routine mission harvesting space junk for cash he gets stuck in an abandoned factory. His only company is a witty AI butler who has control over the entire station. While not everything is as it seems, the good ol' space trucker just wants to escape with his loot and sanity intact.

    Rive
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: A well built game with quality voice acting, music and content.
    Weak Points: The game is sweet but short; anyone who spends more time with this than the average length of content is truly a hardy gamer. 
    Moral Warnings: Cartoonish explosions and mild language are all you have to worry about. The trucker will let out a damn or asshole every now and then.

     

    This game is a simple space shooter that focuses on your own reflexes and ability to think at a moment's notice. The game has some auto scrolling sections reminiscent of games like Gradius but most of the time you will be platforming and taking on enemies as a spider tank. The game is linear so don't expect a Metroidvania like experience. Aside from your regular infinite ammo machine gun you have a choice of one of four unlockable super weapons. Each of these four weapons shares one charge; once you use it you'll have to find an ammo box before you can use a super weapon again.

    As you progress through the game, you unlock new difficulty options. These include a speed runner mode where you have limited time to beat each mission as well as a single credit mode, challenging you to beat the game without dying. Aside from campaigns you can select missions you defeated individually to play again and you may set different modifiers for the mission. You also have a battle arena you can access to see how long you can last against waves of enemies.

    Rive
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The alternate modes are designed to appeal to those of a score attack mindset. If you don't like that sort of thing you probably won't play much of the game outside of the campaign, as you don't have anything to unlock except the new missions to play. The super weapons are fun but they are trivial for the purpose of progression. The average run time for most people to beat the 12 missions in campaign mode stretches between two to three hours. The music is great and catchy, reminiscent of old space shooters. The voice acting between the trucker and the cynical AI is fun and filled with video game references. Yet that sort of thing won't entertain everyone a second time. Thankfully the gameplay is solid despite the short amount of content.

    Morality problems are few and far between with this game. This game has cartoonish explosions of many robotic enemies and a bit of a gruff side to the trucker's lines. He will let a curse word slip every now and then like damn or asshole out of frustrations.

    While RIVE is a short game, it is still a game of above average quality. I highly recommend this game for anyone who wants a simple and clean 2-D twin-stick shooter.

     

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Sine Mora EX
    Developed by: Digital Reality
    Published by: THQ Nordic
    Release date: September 26, 2017
    Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: Shoot ‘em Up
    Number of players: Up to two
    ESRB rating: Mature for fantasy violence, sexual themes, strong language
    Price: $29.99

    Thank you THQ Nordic for sending us this game to review!

    Sine Mora was originally released for PC in 2012. In August, owners of the original game received a free upgrade in Sine Mora EX and the game became available on the PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. The Ex version adds many great new features including native 4K at 60FPS, improved rendering, new versus game modes as well as two-player local co-op in the story mode. The new English voice acting is a noteworthy addition too.

    This 2.5D horizontal shoot ‘em up comes with seven unique stages and a cool time mechanic. Unlike other shoot ‘em ups where you have a health bar to worry about, this one has time. Whenever your aircraft takes damage or collides with an object, you’ll lose valuable time needed to finish the level. However, you will get time added for each enemy you shoot down.

    Sine Mora EX
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting time mechanic; impressive visuals; good voice acting 
    Weak Points: Switch version is the most expensive compared to the others
    Moral Warnings: Strong language and blaspheming; story includes rape, discrimination and experimentation

    Power-ups can be collected from fallen foes and they are lost just as easily through enemy contact. Most of the time you can re-collect your gun upgrades, but they can get lost during the level’s auto piloting through the story sequences.

    The game’s story is rather interesting as it is told through multiple perspectives. The first character you’ll meet is Ronotra Koss who is vowing revenge on the Empire who killed his son for refusing to nuke a race called the Enkies. Besides nuclear missiles, there’s talk of unethical experiments and rape. Between the mature themes and intense language (f bombs included) and blaspheming, Sine Mora EX earns its Mature rating from the ESRB.

    Sine Mora EX
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 59%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2.5/10

    The mature content is a shame since the gameplay is pretty solid in this shoot ‘em up game. The levels and enemies are diverse and the multi-stage bosses are both intimidating and challenging. The visuals look and run great on the Switch. I was anticipating frame rate issues, but didn’t encounter any! I like how you get eight credits per game and can resume the game from various levels instead of having to start fresh.

    Besides the story mode you can partake in boss training, an arcade mode, challenge mode, as well as versus and co-op play. There’s plenty of replay value despite the relatively short story mode. Once you complete the game on normal difficulty, you can try doing it again at the challenging difficulty.

    The Switch version is great because of portability, however it’s the most expensive platform to buy the game on. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions are ten dollars less while the PC version is twenty dollars cheaper. If you have the other platforms available, you may want to consider it on those. If the portability is important to you and the morality isn’t, Sine Mora Ex on the Switch is a solid shoot ‘em up game to add to your library.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Solar Shifter EX
    Developed by: Elder Games
    Published by: Headup Games
    Release date: August 25, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac, SteamOS, Xbox One
    Genre: Shoot em’ Up
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with mild fantasy violence and mild language
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Headup Games for providing us with a review code!

    Not long after mankind set out to colonize the solar system they ran into hostile aliens and waged war against them and lost.  As a final blow, the aliens set their sights on the sun to destroy it and annihilate us completely.  Chaos ensues as people attempt to flee the solar system and pirates emerge in hopes of robbing them on the way out.  It's your job to protect people from alien and pirate attacks. 

    Not much is known about the pilot you play as, but the ship you’re flying has the unique ability to teleport to the other side of the screen in an instant if needed.  This capability will come in handy, but it has a re-charge time so you cannot rely on it too heavily.  Most of the time you’ll be busy pixel hunting to find the safe spot to be in to avoid getting shot out of the atmosphere from the waves of enemies and bosses.

    There are forty different enemy types and they vary in size and weaponry.  Some of them shoot missiles while others are equipped with lasers or bullets to dodge to the best of your ability.  If your ship collides with them or obstacles, it’s instant death.  Fortunately, there are a generous number of check points to reload from.  Sadly, you’ll be staring at a loading screen for a while between deaths.  

    Solar Shifter EX
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent variety in enemies and level backgrounds
    Weak Points: Lackluster gameplay and awkward camera angles; loading screens
    Moral Warnings: Combat violence, the word "hell" is used in the achievements

    The levels and enemy movements are all choreographed and do not change whatsoever.  Pattern memorization will be essential to your survival. Sometimes the enemies simply cannot be dodged and you’ll have to locate a safe spot to be in to survive until the next check point. 

    Besides the pixel hunting for a safe place to be in, you’ll have to deal with awkward camera angles.  There is no way to adjust your ship’s shooting trajectory.  While the boss class ships move fluidly and change their angles, your ship cannot and this puts you at an extreme disadvantage.  

    Upgrading your ship’s primary and secondary weapons are done at the hangar between the eighteen levels.  Credits collected for destroying enemies are used to fund your ship’s upgrades.  The cost to upgrade raises with each enhancement.    

    Solar Shifter EX
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 58%
    Gameplay - 9/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The secondary weapons are fired automatically with the primary ones so there are no extra controls to worry about.  To mix things up a bit, you get to fly alien ships occasionally.  Those levels tended to be easier despite lacking the shifting ability.

    While the 3D graphics are not amazing, they get the job done.  There’s a wide variety of colorful landscapes and space backdrops to appreciate when you’re not busy dodging enemy laser beams and missiles.

    The story isn’t narrated, but the radio transmissions are.  I wasn’t impressed with the voice acting as it lacked emotion.  The sound effects are fitting and the background music is passable, but not memorable.

    Despite the combat violence and the word hell being used in the achievements, this game is safe for people of all ages to play.  I don’t think they’ll enjoy it as much as other bullet heck games though.   Solar Shifter Ex arrived on PC in 2015 and is half the price of the Xbox version.  Even at $4.99 I would recommend passing on this title and getting a better shoot ‘em up game instead.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Son of Scoregasm
    Developed by: Richard Knight
    Published by: Charlie’s Games
    Release date: October 10, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, Vita, Windows
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Everyone with Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Charlie’s Games for sending us a review code!

    Charlie’s Games specializes in shooter games and according to their website, Son of Scoregasm appears to be their seventh game. All of their titles are available on itch.io and are free or only a couple of dollars or less. Son of Scoregasm is the first to be released on PSN and the original Scoregasm is also available on Steam for $4.99. While I’m not a fan of the title, it’s a tad better than their first game: Space Phallus.

    The tutorial will fill you in on the simple story of rescuing the king of Earth’s biscuits from the space bad guys. You’ll also learn about the twin stick controls which use the left joystick to move and the right one to fire. The triggers are used for a pulse attack which takes out nearby enemies but requires recharging by waiting or shooting foes. Mastering the pulse charge is essential for increasing your score multiplier and finishing score. If you earn enough points you’ll earn a medal for the level and get your name prominently displayed on the online leaderboards.

    Son of Scoregasm
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and challenging shoot em’ up
    Weak Points: No easy difficulty, just normal and expert
    Moral Warnings: Sexual innuendo in the title; spaceship violence

    There are twenty-eight levels and seven different endings available in this game. When you survive a level, you’ll get to select the next one through a warp portal. If you go through the green portal you’ll be taken to an easier level while the orange portal goes to a more challenging one. To see all of the endings and bosses you’ll need to complete levels multiple times to take both routes.

    While I did earn a couple of medals, I was just happy to survive until the end. Some of the levels are so tough that I am in no hurry to complete them a second time. Many of the levels confine your ship to a bordered area and you cannot touch the walls or you’ll lose your only life. At first, you’ll have to worry about the enemy ships swarming and colliding with yours. Later on in the game you’ll have to worry about their attacks as well. There is a lot of variety in the levels and they usually have a trick to surviving and completing them.

    Son of Scoregasm
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 8.5/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

     

    The 2D visuals are simple but look pretty as the screen fills up with various enemies, bullets, bombs, and lasers. The controls are pretty responsive and I never felt cheated in my numerous deaths. The electronic background music is pleasant to listen to and not too distracting. The sound effects are fitting as well.

    If you enjoy twin stick shooters, Son of Scoregasm is a solid buy if you don’t mind the title’s innuendo. The asking price of $9.99 is reasonable and this is a fun game to pick up and play on the go. As expected, it ran great on my Vita.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Super Intergalactic Gang
    Developed By: Martin Cerdeira
    Published By: Black Shell Media
    Released: January 4, 2016
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Side-scrolling shooter
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1-2 
    Price: $1.99

    *Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media is an advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.

    Thanks to Black Shell Media for the review code!

    Aliens are plotting to attack the Earth! Thankfully for the innocent humans living there, the Super Intergalactic Gang is here to push them back! Take control of one of a few dozen of your favorite fair use-protected heroes, such as Luke Skycrawler, Rombo, and the Hoolk, and stuff those sorry aliens back into the hole they crawled out of!

    As a side-scrolling shooter, Super Intergalactic Gang is solidly playable. The action is fast-paced without becoming too overwhelming – and with the integral “time distort” ability, even the more intense parts are easily manageable. The weapons are many and varied, with most of them being unique in execution: these range from standard machine guns to piercing lasers to lightsabers to a short-ranged fist thrower that bears more than a passing resemblance to Mega Man’s Hard Knuckle. Each weapon (aside from the lightsaber) is chargeable as well, usually creating a larger, more damaging version of the basic shot.

    Super Intergalactic Gang
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent gameplay; good weapon and power-up variety
    Weak Points: Assaults the senses; not much content
    Moral Warnings: Violence against pixel aliens; two characters are Hell Kid and Mutant Poop

    In addition to the weapons, each boss you defeat offers you a chance to take one of two random power-ups. Passive healing, increased damage, quicker time distort recharge, and more are all on the table, ensuring that no two playthroughs are exactly alike as well as breathing some variety into the gameplay. While the luck of the draw is certainly in play, the progression of power is easily discernable and rather satisfying – throwing eight grenades a second while zipping around a near-constantly slowed bunch of enemies is quite the suitable reward for your time.

    Super Intergalactic Gang controls well enough, though it’s not completely flawless. The game shows the controls on screen as if it were an arcade game – joystick to move, button one to fire, button two to time distort – but never tells you what that translates to on keyboard or gamepad (arrow keys/Z/X and D-pad/A/B, for the record). There’s also no auto-fire, either by setting or button, meaning you’ll be mashing your relevant attack key constantly for a good half-hour. Outside of those, the game controls without any problems, responding quickly to each command, no matter how fatigued the finger that issues them is.

    Unfortunately, the gameplay is hampered by the game’s overall presentation. The 8-bit style shows glimpses of competency, but there’s really no internal consistency to it. All of the many playable characters look decent, though some are more detailed than others, but the enemies vary wildly from appealing to looking like they were whipped together in a minute in MS Paint. On top of that, the game loves to disrupt your view of the action, either by explosions that wildly shake the screen or enemies that fly toward the monitor and completely block your vision for a few moments. The bosses fire easily-seen bullets that stand out against the starry background, but the few regular enemies that shoot at you have bullets that shift and twinkle as they meander across the battlefield, making them easy to lose in the cacophony. While messing with the player’s UI can add to the experience (see Eternal Darkness), this game’s attempt is just hard on the eyes with no redeeming factor.

    Super Intergalactic Gang
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 62%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 4.5/5
    Controls - 4.5/5

    Morality Score - 92%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The sounds, sadly, don’t fare much better. The music in Super Intergalactic Gang is entirely chiptune-style, which fits the game fine – though the only time you’ll really notice it is when it’s irritating. Still, there are some pretty good songs tucked away behind the sound effects that really assault your ears. These vary as well, with each weapon type having its own firing noise, but considering you’ll be shooting off dozens of rounds a second, the repeated effects get grating fast. The worst offender is the energy disc, which has an extremely loud, high-pitched whine that completely negates its use despite being a powerful weapon. It’s not all bad, however; a robot voice announces weapon pickups and time distortion as well as compliments you upon beating a boss, adding a fair share of charm.

    Perhaps Super Intergalactic Gang’s biggest fault, however, is that there’s no incentive to keep playing. The story and boss rush modes constitute the bulk of the game, with no difficulty options or challenges to keep things going. The game keeps score, but only during your current run; there’s no apparent way to track your previous point totals at all. The stats screen offers up only enemies killed and total player deaths; total time distorts and playtime appear, but aren’t tracked at all, staying permanently at zero. In essence, once you’ve beaten the game once, you’ve beaten it for good.

    There’s not much to say morality-wise about Super Intergalactic Gang. The shooting violence is obvious, but the pixilated style as well as the fact that most aliens spin away to the bottom of the screen or poof out of existence upon defeat keep the savagery down. There are only two instances of questionable language, both in the playable cast: Hell Kid and Mutant Poop. Those are the only breaches, and rather minor ones as well; the majority of the game is clean.

    Considering Super Intergalactic Gang was, music aside, wholly created by one man, Martin Cerdeira, the smooth and enjoyable gameplay is an impressive feat. However, its 8-bit wrapper is not so much retro as cheap, coming across more frequently as annoying rather than charming. If you’re an extreme fan of the pixilated style, or feel like playing a new side-scrolling shooter, it might be worth the two dollars the game currently costs.

    -Cadogan

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Super Star Path
    Developed By: DYA Games
    Published By: DYA Games
    Released: June 22, 2015
    Available On: Steam
    Genre: Shoot-Em-Up (“shmup”)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1 offline
    Price: $1.99

    What’s one thing you take for granted in a shoot-em-up (shmup) style of game? Never. Stop. Firing. The ever-flowing avalanche of enemies requires you to hold down the A button for every level’s duration. There’s never a reason to let go of the button besides momentary muscle relief.

    Super Star Path turns that logic on its head.

    Every shot in DYA’s short, indie title literally does count. As in the old classic, Bubble Blast, and its innumerable variants, you fire at randomly-placed targets that detonate same-colored enemies that sit adjacent to it. The twist is, at the end of the line, when the color of enemies changes, surrounding targets crystallize permanently. No number of shots, no force in the galaxy, can destroy, let alone move, these frozen obstacles. I found it frustratingly common to die not due to the amount of enemies, but because of the placement of crystallized ones. You will die to enemies and their attacks, of course, though the trick is to create your own path through the waves of stationary targets.

    Super Star Path
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Ingenious concept, low price, light download, retro visual style.
    Weak Points: Short duration, controls take some getting used to, sprite boxes feel a little off.
    Moral Warnings: Mild fantasy violence.


    It’s not always your fault if you get stuck with an impossible situation. Fixed defenses like flames and lasers kill monsters as well as you, and the rules of crystallization apply just the same. Occasionally, you will find the randomly-generated level unfortunately worked against you. Restarting is not difficult; there is no lives system and you retain all of your currency upon death.

    Arguably the most positive impression I received while playing Super Star Path was the rate of fire between weaving through the level and encountering the level’s boss. Since every shot could sign your death warrant, the game is programmed to only allow semi-automatic fire: one button press, one shot. After you’ve cleared that section, however, full-automatic becomes available. Boss battles represent standard shmup fare, with a hint of bullet heck. I didn’t find the bosses terribly unique, but did not mind it; Super Star Path’s concept is innovative enough on its own that the levels’ climaxes prove a welcome reprieve and enjoyable reminder to fans of this genre. In fact, the two parts mix extremely well together.

    Progression involves unlocking new ships to purchase. Each spaceship offers a different advantage such as immunity to certain attacks or hazards, or doubling gem income. Gems drop from destroyed enemies, more so from mobile ones that fight back. Three specific monsters carry a boost to later permanently upgrade a ship; three additional specific monsters drop large emeralds for completionists. And yes, I’ve accidentally blocked myself from accessing these specific monsters in levels, or worse, shot an adjacent monster that froze the special one!

    Super Star Path
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 82%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Super Star Path’s story did not leave an impression. In all honesty, most shmups don’t. The gameplay is what you’re here for; any background information is often blitzed through regardless. The pilot’s voice-acting sometimes felt cringy, sometimes so cringy it sounded hilarious. Your ship's controls, while they work well almost all the time, very rarely sometimes felt slow or off. I attribute this to the boxy sprites and the hard unit collision they cause. I encounter this issue in older games; this aspect of the retro style I don't think needed reviving.

    Morally, Super Star Path doesn’t raise any significant alarms. The pilot mildly curses maybe once in a while ("da**"). The deaths are comical, both for your pilot and the monsters. This game plays as violently as you’d expect from an old-school arcade like Galaga. The blown-up monsters have a very small window with very mild blood and gore. No sexual content to speak of.

    In short, Galaga is a great comparison for Super Star Path. In brevity (it took me two hours to fully complete this game), innovation, and simplicity, Super Star Path shines as a sterling reminder of what indie games done right look like: fiendishly ingenious, inexpensive, and simple yet complete. Steam’s current asking price for any of DYA’s games is $2, more than fair for the straightforward fun they provide.

    - Anax

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Tempest 4000
    Developed By: Llamasoft Ltd.
    Published By: Atari Inc.
    Release Date: July 17, 2018
    Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
    Genre: Arcade Shoot ‘em up
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
    MSRP:$29.99 (PS4/Xbox One), $19.99 (Windows) 
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Atari for sending us this game to review!

    Tempest is one of several famous classic vector-based arcade games from the early 1980s. Vector graphics are really neat because, rather than the modern approach of placing pixels on what is essentially a square grid (not much different than graph paper - it's called rasterization), they were lines that were drawn between two points - perfectly. Modern raster-style graphics have the advantage that it's easier to display much more detail, with the downside that lines often have aliasing artifacts. Vector graphics have no aliasing, but each line drawn is computationally expensive, so everything is generally simple line graphics.

    Tempest 4000 uses a near-perfect emulation of vector graphics on modern raster graphics systems. The graphics engine does a wonderful job of making the lines look clean and crisp, and the developers did a fantastic job of making the game faithfully reproduce the iconic look of the classic game. This time, not only is there 4k support (and presumably other high resolutions on PC), but there are significant other upgrades, in the form of new enemies, power-ups, and lots and lots of graphical effects that keeps the action going nearly non-stop.

    For those who have never played it, Tempest is a shooting game where you shoot down a tube or other similar polygonal shape with your claw-like ship. The enemies are simple shapes, that, like your claw, can easily go from one column of this shape to another, all the while trying to have you killed. Sometimes, they may shoot a bullet for you to dodge. Most of the time, they simply climb up to the top where you are and try to ram you with themselves, which kills you if they touch you.

    Tempest 4000
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nearly perfectly reproduces the classic gameplay; vector graphics look basically perfect; sound effects and music are also really fun and update the classic game well
    Weak Points: Windows version has nasty bugs on high refresh rate or variable refresh rate monitors; Windows version is barely usable without a gamepad; some control options are not explained; Windows version has a bug where certain items (including power-ups!) are invisible on Intel drivers; the three game modes, ‘classic’, ‘pure’, and ‘survival’ are basically identical unless you’re really good (or bad)
    Moral Warnings: Polygons get shot by other polygons

    The weapons at your disposal is mostly the simple gun you start with and a single shot of a superzapper that clears the screen, once per level. As you collect power-ups, you can get things like a particle beam, jumping, and the awesome AI Droid. They really come in handy, and can help you survive much longer – though sadly, you lose power-ups in between levels, so you have to earn them again each time.

    And you will often wish you did have them, because like most classic arcade games (or those based on them), it is quite hard. There are one hundred levels in Tempest 4000, and I have only seen a bit more than a tenth of them. They quickly get very difficult – only the most highly skilled (or practiced) can hope to reach the end. That’s not to say it’s not worth trying – it’s quite a bit of fun, and if you have any penchant for classic-style shoot ‘em ups, then it’s hard not to recommend Tempest 4000.

    The Xbox One version gets an easy recommendation. The only supported control scheme is the controller, and what you need to play is listed in the controls menu, though the description on how to ‘lean’, by pressing the LT button, is conspicuously absent from the instructions. But knowing about it is absolutely essential for some of the more challenging levels. It’s strange that they would leave this out. Other than that, the Xbox One version runs wonderfully.

    When Atari asked me earlier this week (as of this writing) how my review was coming along, I explained that I was out traveling on business and that I wouldn’t be able to check out the game until the weekend at the earliest. I did point out that I had my gaming laptop with me, and if they wanted to send me the Steam version, I could look at it sooner. They graciously sent me that code as well, so I am happy to say that I can compare and contrast the two now.

    On the surface, the two versions of the game are basically identical. If your PC configuration happens to match what the developer is looking for, your experience will be largely the same, and honestly, with the lower price, is an easy recommendation. But there are a few gotchas with the Windows PC version as it stands right now. I certainly hope that they fix the issues soon.

    Tempest 4000
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 2/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    I have tried it on two computers; one is my GPD Win 2, and the other is my MSI gaming laptop. Both actually ran the game really well, but also exposed different bugs. First of all, the Intel video on the GPD Win 2 does not display all items on the screen. The power-ups are a green shadow – no icons are visible. Many of the text descriptions are also not visible in the levels – the menus are fine. The scores that can be seen in the little interlude between levels also cannot be seen. It’s nothing game breaking, but it is annoying.

    On my NVIDIA GTX 1070 laptop, it was actually far worse. First of all, the Atari logo intro movie actually locked up the game. I found on a forum that renaming or deleting this file simply skips it on startup, and gets around this issue. It does, and I’m grateful. But that wasn’t enough. There is a bug where if your refresh rate is higher than 60, or if you use G-Sync or FreeSync, the game runs too fast to be playable. Even though my monitor is current a fixed-rate 60Hz, I did have fast sync on – so I had to go into my NVIDIA control panel and force the game to disable G-Sync and force V-Sync to be on. With these two things done, the game plays great – just as great as the Xbox One version.

    Having found workarounds for my issues, the only remaining issue with the PC version is absolutely no documentation for the keyboard controls. As I was poking around in the game files, you can imagine my shock when I found a Readme.txt file sitting in there! I haven’t looked through a Readme since the early 2000s! Anyway, after reading through that, the instructions for the keyboard controls are in there. Sadly, controls are not customizable at all, on either keyboard or gamepad. Thankfully, they gamepad controls are pretty reasonable, and most PC gamers are pretty used to using gamepads on their PCs nowadays.

    Tempest 4000 is a really fun remake of a retro arcade classic. If you like fast-paced arcade-style games, or ever enjoyed the classic Tempest, then it’s really a no-brainer – pick up this game; you are sure to enjoy it. With the excellent music, sometimes trippy visuals, and time-tested gameplay, I am sure even the younger crowd will find something to enjoy in Tempest 4000. I just hope that the higher price (especially on consoles) doesn’t keep too many people away from what is otherwise an excellent game.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    The Void Rains Upon Her Heart
    Developed by: Veyeral Games
    Published by: The Hidden Levels
    Release date: February 14, 2018
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Shoot 'em Up
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $7.99

    Thank you Veyeral Games for sending us an Early Access code for the game and soundtrack!

    The Void Rains Upon Her Heart has two story modes that revolve around two naked Zaraden/alien women who are being tormented by monsters and seclude themselves into different caves to avoid conflict with them. Instead of giving up or fighting the monsters, they choose to love them in the hopes that they will learn to love them back. Even if the monsters do come around, they’ll forget in the morning and will have to be shown love all over again.

    Upon launching the game you’re given an option to enable a fog around the non-sexual nudity. Even with the mist enabled, breasts without nipples are still shown in the conversations. The mist mostly covers below the belly button which does show hair between the legs if not enabled. Granted the nudity is not sexual in nature, but these women do live in a forest and have the resources available to cover themselves in leaves or animal skins if desired.

    The Void Rains Upon Her Heart
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay with lots of replayability; 170 Steam achievements
    Weak Points: Even with the modesty fog enabled you still see breasts (without nipples)
    Moral Warnings: Frontal nudity; firing love at unfriendly monsters

    Along with the nudity there are some dark themes involving depression, anxiety, and suicide. Like other shoot 'em ups there is combat violence, but instead of firing bullets you’re projecting your love towards these hideous monsters. Each level in the four to six chapters (the numbers of chapters change with the difficulty setting) is a boss battle. There are no lower-level enemies, only bosses. The bosses have difficulty levels that increase as you play on harder gameplay levels. While you can choose to battle against lower-level bosses, the higher-level ones give you better gifts in the end.

    Some of the gifts include health replenishment or upgrades to your shot pattern. I liked the gifts that altered my firing pattern to enable bi-directional streams or a single wavy configuration. Sadly, you only get one life per game and the gifts earned are not activated by default in the next playthrough. With that said, they are not completely lost either.

    After every battle you earn karma and points towards unlocking tetrids which can be used to purchase gifts and enemies to become available in future playthroughs and in the Quick Play mode. The more karma you earn you’ll have a better chance at unlocking more valuable gifts.

    The Void Rains Upon Her Heart
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 73%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    Between unlocking gifts and monsters to battle, there is plenty of replayability in The Void Rains Upon Her Heart. I look forward to future additions as this Early Access game is frequently being updated by the developers.

    The soundtrack is good and available for $3.99 on Steam if you enjoy it. The voice acting is gibberish so there’s not much to say about that.

    If you’re into Steam achievements, The Void Rains Upon Her Heart has you covered with 170 of them at the time of this preview. I earned over twenty of them on my first playthrough. The remainder of them will take a lot more work.

    In the end, The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is a solid shoot 'em up with plenty of reasons to keep playing it. The only thing holding me back is the unavoidable nudity. Hopefully that gets fixed before the final version is released.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
    Developed By: Team Shanghai Alice/Mediascape Co., Ltd./CUBETYPE
    Published By: NIS America
    Release Date: October 10, 2017
    Available On: PS4 (PS VR included), PS Vita, Switch, Windows (Japan only, maybe coming to Steam someday?)
    Genre: 3D Shoot ‘em up Fighter
    Number of Players: 1-2, online or split screen
    ESRB Rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes
    MSRP: $29.99

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

    The Touhou universe is based on a long and storied series of shoot ‘em ups out of Japan since the 1990s. Team Shanghai Alice created the series, and has a rather unique way of serving their fans – by allowing them to create fan-created works derived from the main works, with the full blessing of the creator. There are some limitations, but he’s pretty open with it. As a result, it has become the “most prolific fan-made shooter series" according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is a spinoff game in the arena battle style. There is some visual novel-esque conversation, and then the inevitable friendly spat that leads to violence. This violence takes the form of a one-on-one 3D arena battle, where you and your opponent shoot at each other, or run up and melee with them, until their life meter depletes. Like most fighters, it’s a best out of three contest.

    Each character has three attack buttons, a jump button, a dash button, and a guard button.  The attacks also have variations where you press the dash button, or even both the dash and guard buttons.  If you get close enough to your enemy, then the attacks automatically become melee, which can be helpful – or also hurtful, as it’s not always what you intended.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent character selection and variety; good move variation between characters; more complex than it first appears
    Weak Points: Not a lot to it; Japanese voices only
    Weak Points: Not a lot to it; Japanese voices only
    Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence, as you beat up your friends for fun; a few conversations seem sexually suggestive, though it ends up innocent; one girl called another cute; Meiling is mercilessly called China and other stereotypes related to that; magic use, by the player and enemies; one character constantly shows off hexagrams

    Each attack, as well as dash, has a regeneration meter where too much usage can require a delay before using it again – or in the case of dash, an even more dangerous forced rest where you can’t move or fight back. Managing your stamina is an important part of any fight.

    Another important meter is the charge meter. When your opponent attacks, often they will be balls of energy or something, and these attacks can usually be avoided – but sometimes you can also shoot them out of the sky. When this happens, you earn energy for your charge meter. Once this maxes out, you can activate your spell – which is a very powerful attack that can drastically turn the tide in battle. Most fights take a few minutes, because individually, attacks take off a tiny chunk of health; spells take off half of the bar or even more depending on the character.

    There are nine characters (and one paid DLC character) to choose from. Each of them, from Reimu to Cirno to Patchouli all play very differently, with some like Meiling being fantastic melee characters, with others like Patchouli being amazing at ranged attacks. I find it kind of tacky that the tenth character is sitting there with a lock over her icon (and requiring a $2.99 purchase from the eShop) but it is what it is. The characters definitely have their own personalities through the combat and dialog, and it was mildly interesting to read. Each character’s story mode can be beaten in ten to twenty minutes, so it’s a pretty short game overall.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 8/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    Other than the story mode, there is arcade mode, which is an endless arena where you fight one character after another, trying to get the highest victory count. There is also the very similar score attack mode, which is an endless mode where you keep fighting one enemy after another, accumulating points until you finally die. Both give you a small amount of health back in between bouts, but not to full (unless you were close to full anyway). You can also play one-off fights against the computer, or human players either split-screen or online. I could not find players online when I checked.

    Morally, there is violence, as expected. There is no blood or gore, and no one actually dies. There is plenty of magic use. One of the characters is a fairy, another a vampire, with yet another a youkai (some kind of demon spirit). The main character is a shrine maiden, which is a common religious figure in Japan. All of them are very cute looking anime girls, and look rather young. Meiling is Chinese, and is constantly made fun of, by calling her names like ‘China’, and is lazy and sleeps while on duty as a guard. One of the girls called another cute, and there are a couple of lines that could be interpreted as being sexual in nature – but it is revealed later that nothing like that is actually going on. One mention of the word ‘boob’ is used, as a character is being pressed against them.

    Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle is... okay. That’s really the best way I can explain it. If you are a Touhou fan, or are looking for fighting games off the beaten path, then you could find some fun here if you take the time to figure out the not initially obvious fighting mechanics. The first time I played it, I thought this game was going to be completely terrible; by the time I figured everything out, I had determined it’s not terrible. Just not particularly great. It’s probably a fun diversion if the price is right on deep discount.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Zamarian
    Developed by: Quarter Pound Studio
    Published by: Quarter Pound Studio
    Released: January 22, 2016
    Available on: Windows, macOS, SteamOS/Linux, iOS, Android
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: 1-4
    Price: $4.99 (Steam), $1.99 (Android, iOS – "Lite" version available for free)

    Thank you, Black Shell Media, for sending us a copy of this game to review!

    Zamarian, from Quarter Pound Studio, hearkens back to the classic arcade machines. You play the pilot of a space fighter, and you have to shoot down oncoming aliens and asteroids. As you do so, you'll unlock gems, which are currency, and the occasional power-up. You can use the gems you collect to purchase larger, more powerful ships, or weapons to help you battle the aliens. 

    This is hardly an original premise, and sadly, the one thing that does make the game a bit more innovative is awkwardly handled. You have to purchase the upgrades while battling the aliens. This can be done by using the mouse to click on the proper upgrade button, and then select which upgrade you'd like to use. Since your ship's movement is tied to the mouse controls, you are essentially a sitting duck while making your purchase in this fashion – especially since your weapons stop firing during this time as well. 

    It is possible – and even encouraged – to purchase these upgrades by hitting the appropriate key on the keyboard. However, the keys are barely defined in the game itself – only in the intro screen that pops up when you first start the game, before you even get to the title screen. And even then, the keys it chooses as the default are a bit awkwardly placed. For example, to purchase a light, medium or heavy ship, you need to hit the "l," "m" or "h" key. That makes sense, but if you're right-handed and using the mouse, you need to do a bit of dodgy work with your left hand to hit the corresponding keys (when typing, those buttons would normally be ones your right hand would hit). 

    Zamarian
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun, quick games; innovative upgrade system
    Weak Points: Very poor controls; bland soundtrack; no one to play with in multiplayer
    Moral Warnings: Ships shoot each other and explode

    This problem could be solved by using a controller. Sadly, there's no controller support for this game. Your only option is to use the mouse and keyboard. While it is possible to remap the keyboard with the initial screen, it seems like a step the developer sadly overlooked. Nothing can kill the fun of a game more than awkward controls.

    This game does have a lot of potential to be fun, too. You pilot the ship around a circle, and can advance or retreat to different rings of the circle. Your weapons fire automatically, so the main thing you need to focus on is dodging enemy attacks, picking up goodies, and trying to purchase upgrades as quickly as you can. With the relentless swarms of enemies and their deadly weapons fire, you'll have to focus on dodging a lot. Fortunately, if you die, you can resume at the starting point of the level you were last at, and it remembers your progress even when you quit the game. You will lose all of your ship upgrades and money, though. Even so, you start with 3,000 gems, so it doesn't take too much to get back into the game. 

    The enemies are colorful and well-animated, spinning or diving at you. The bosses are large, and can be a joy to take down. A health bar appears when one is on the screen, giving you a convenient way to see how far you've progressed against it. Knocking the weapons off a frigate is always a thrill, and the graphics and explosions are done quite well. The tendency for the background to rapidly shift is a bit distracting, though, and at times it's difficult to tell the difference between a gem or an enemy's weapons fire. The music is a generic rock soundtrack, and not terribly memorable. The sound effects are fine, with explosions when ships explode, and even a few useful noises when you need to purchase a new ship or manage to snag an upgrade. 

    Zamarian
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Another irritating issue I found is that every time your ship is destroyed, a screen pops up announcing that you've been added to the leaderboard. I could understand this if I had beaten my previous score, but when it occurs every single time, it gets bothersome, almost to the point where it seems like the game is taunting you. Multiplayer is an option for up to four players, but when I tried to join a multiplayer game the system found no one else playing. The game timed out and dumped me back to the menu screen. So I was unable to fully explore that option.

    On the moral front, there isn't really anything to worry about here. Your ship blasts away at other ships, and when one is destroyed, it explodes in a puff of flames and smoke. Aside from the tutorial, there are very few words on the screen, and no offensive ones that I found. 

    Zamarian certainly is a good reflection of the arcades of old, and I can see the inclination to pump quarters into a machine to play a game like this. Gameplay is quick, and it's fun to knock off a few minutes at a time blasting aliens. It's just too bad the upgrade system is handled as poorly as it is – otherwise, I could heartily recommend it. But bad controls are a real deal breaker, and even at $4.99, you may feel like you've been cheated.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Zombie Party
    Developed by: Peach Pie Productions
    Published by: Black Shell Media
    Available on: Windows, Xbox One coming soon!
    Release date: June 10, 2016 (PC)
    Genre: Shooter
    Number of players: Up to four locally/online
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Violence, Blood, Mild Language
    Price: $9.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    *Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media was a former advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.

    Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us this game to review!

    Zombie Party is a 2D retro rampage game with several different game modes and the ability to play along with friends or with people online. Sadly, I couldn’t find anyone online to play against or alongside, but there is still plenty to do by myself or with nearby friends and family. If you save up your in-game currency, you can also adopt various pets to accompany you on your adventures.

    There are four game modes, though a couple of them are similar. The Arcade mode challenges you to kill 10,000 creatures in five minutes or less. The Adventure mode still has hordes of various enemies, but at least there are breaks between waves and no time limit to vanquish them and the oversized bosses. After the boss is taken down, you can time travel to a different area and repeat the process with swarms of new enemies. The maps in these levels are not incredibly huge and you’ll be pretty much walking around in circles while preventing yourself from being touched by the monsters. As long as you’re not expecting much story wise, these modes can be fun.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Chaotic but fun shooter game with several game modes and lots of weapon variety; online leaderboards; promotes pet adoption
    Weak Points: Game does not run in full-screen mode, pressing alt+enter brings the game into a playable windowed mode; Nobody to play with online; awkward controls 
    Moral Warnings: Violence; pixelated blood; undead creatures and demons to kill

    If you’re looking to explore then you’ll probably enjoy the randomly generated levels in the Dungeon mode. In this mode, your goal is to survive while locating the exit to the next dungeon level. Along the way you may encounter some potential pets that can be rescued and join your party. Last but not least is the Deathmatch mode, where you can fight against friends or AI players and try to score the most kills before the time runs out.

    No matter which mode you play, there are over one hundred weapons to collect and enjoy. Some of the enemies will drop munitions while others can be purchased at the item shops. There are also many unlockable characters and they each come with different starting weapons. Naturally, there are various machine guns and shotguns. Crossbows and grenade launchers are available too. My favorite toy is the rainbow shooting rocket launcher. Even with the strongest weapons, the arcade mode is still challenging and getting 2,500 of the 10,000 goal took a lot of effort. Needless to say, my scores on the online leaderboard won’t pose much of a threat to anyone.

    Zombie Party
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 86%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The lack of people playing this game online is a bummer. Another complaint I have is the start-up glitch where this game launches in full-screen mode but is pitch black. In order to play the game at all I have to press alt+enter and manually resize the game’s window. The controls are disappointing as well. Despite playing with a gamepad, I still had to use my keyboard and mouse to adopt animals. When the screen tells me to press B, it looks like an E instead.

    From a moral standpoint, there are some issues worth noting. Given the game’s title, it should come as no surprise that there are zombies and other undead monsters to shoot down. There is some pixelated blood, especially in the Deathmatch mode. While the ESRB descriptor mentions language, I don’t recall seeing any but perhaps it’s further in the game than the areas I have unlocked so far.

    The asking price is $9.99 and I have seen it on sale for 80% off and at that price point it’s well worth it. Given the current glitches and lack of online players, I’d hold off on paying full price for this title. Zombie Party has been announced for the Xbox One and I’m hoping it does well there.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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