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Game Info:

Lifeless Vanguard
Developed By: Vibrant Allegory
Published By: Vibrant Allegory
Released: April 4, 2019
Available On: Windows
Genre: Arcade
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: Single-player
Price: $5

Thanks to Vibrant Allegory for the Steam key for review!

Lifeless Vanguard is a twin-stick shooter arcade game that focuses on tough bullet patterns and careful movement rather than shiny graphics. The goal of the game is to simply get through 9 levels without dying. I was surprised by how polished the game felt and played for the cheap price and mediocre art.

A core issue with the twin-stick arcade genre is that in most of them all you need to do to succeed is move in large circles around the map holding down the shoot button. Geometry Wars did this while remaining fun to an extent, but the lack of required movement was disappointing. Polychromatic, Waves, Galaxy Champions TV, and several others have the exact same problem. So when an arcade game breaks the formula of nearly mindless movement, to me it’s a huge bonus and boosts my enjoyment of the game significantly. You cannot get away with mindless movement in Lifeless Vanguard. The enemy design and overall game design are done in a way that prevents that.

Enemy variety is strong and each brings a different threat. Some enemies shoot homing missiles that chase after you for a while. Most enemies shoot bullet patterns that are simple to dodge on their own, but becomes incredibly complex when there are several enemies on screen. When the store page of this game mentions an emphasis on dodging, they aren’t joking. There are boss fights that are surprisingly difficult with tight bullet patterns and large health bars. The final boss caught me off guard with how difficult its patterns were. Luckily, Lifeless Vanguard is designed in a way where everything is easily visible and recognizable. Enemies all look different enough from each other to immediately understand what you’re up against. Bullets are the standard colorful circles, but they never blended into the background. The only thing stopping you here is your own skill level, not some glowing nonsense blocking your view.

Lifeless Vanguard
Highlights:

Strong Points: Difficult; tight controls; replayable
Weak Points: Visually unappealing
Moral Warnings: Spaceship violence

There are a couple ways to get better guns. The first way is through rare “superweapon” drops. These are weapons with limited ammo that do significantly more damage than your standard gun. You typically see about one or two superweapon drops per stage. I wish there was a bit more variety in the superweapons though, since there are only 3 types. Secondly, you gain experience points through pickups that drop sometimes when an enemy dies. With each level, your main gun gains more and more of a spread and shoots more bullets, up to 10 levels. Gaining experience is essential to your success and is another mechanic that forces you to think more about your movement.

Lifeless Vanguard is difficult. Usually arcade games seem to be on the easier side of things, but this game is willing to throw everything it's got at you. It’s not the most casual arcade game out there, and I think for the most part I would only recommend it to those that want a legitimate challenge. That being said, the difficulty is completely fair and the game never cheats against you. I never encountered an impossible situation.

Visually, Lifeless Vanguard is boring and unappealing. It hinders the overall quality of the game because it looks unpolished and poorly made due to the art. I understand that in some ways this is intentional, (they wanted to make things as visually distinct as possible), but there has to be ways to make the game more interesting to look at without trashing the idea of visibility.

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

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

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

The music and sounds have the same issues. They’re standard and boring. They aren’t anything to be in awe over. Mechanically, Lifeless Vanguard is well polished and great fun, but the package it’s wrapped in is unfortunately downright ugly.

Controls are fantastic. I played on an XBOX One controller for the most part, but I can gladly say that it also played very well on keyboard and mouse. All controls can be rebound to whatever you want. The ship could be a little bit faster, but the game was designed around a slower ship, so it’s fine. I only ever ran into one simple UI bug at the end of a session, but it seems inconsistent and didn’t affect the gameplay itself.

Morally, I found next to nothing that could cause problems. All you have here is spaceships shooting other spaceships. No gore to be found, no dialogue is spoken at all, and there are no bodies that drop. Just colorful glowing bullets that make ships explode into bits. There is an online leaderboard, so you could come across somebody with a nasty username, but you never have to directly interact with that person.

Overall, Lifeless Vanguard surprised me. The graphics and music made the game look poorly made and unpolished, but once I played some it ended up being a solid and cheap arcade shooter. I sort of wish there was an endless mode or something after the final boss, but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game. Recommended at full price to those that want a challenge!

About the Author

Evan

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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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