Shoot em ups have always been particularly popular over the years. The ability to play current and retro classics on the go, is most definitely appealing with Switch and the consoles power to generate and replicate near perfect gameplay.
A particular retro classic I held dear to my heart was Asteroids. Controlling your little triangle spaceship and blasting advancing chunks of rock was in itself, quite simplistic. Yet strangely, it took hold of you and gave you an experience that was strangely engrossing and above all.. Addictive!
Fast forward to today, and the arrival of Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo. A space shooter that most certainly possesses DNA from the Asteroids classic, and adds plenty of layers on top and into the mix. The title suggesting a gameplay experience of galactic explosions and blasts aplenty?.. Errrrm well not quite!
Players are taken to the main hub and given the option of selecting one of 5 game modes. There is no story here or indeed, as you play, no break in between levels. You pick a mode, pick a ship,play the game until you die, and any score is instantly added to an online leaderboard. Where you can compare your score,or in my case my pitiful score, against others. Modes for 1 player include protecting a spaceship from advancing rocks, missiles, and alien attack. A spaceman rescue mode, typically like retro classic Defender, where you must pick up one floating spaceman at a time and drop him into a craft at the bottom of the screen. A survival mode, which as the name suggests, involves staying alive long enough against various stages of rocks and missiles. Strangely, and in summary, it’s the more forgiving mode and a good starter for players to get into the game and its tricky control system.
2 player Co-Op is supported in 3 game modes and every mode is supported by a list of objectives displayed on the games UI. Completion will grant you currency that can be used to unlock upgrades, and furthermore, new spaceships that each feel different in terms of movement and firing ability. Players can then choose which spaceship suits their style of gameplay over the games 5 modes.
Graphically, everything is nicely rendered with explosions close to firework type displays. Rocks advance and can get crushed into smaller rocks, requiring fine and continuous shooting to remove them,with debris looking realistic enough. Sound is a modern futuristic score that is nice enough, and pretty well themed to the subject, which just leaves the gameplay itself and the controls…
Players will soon find the gameplay is extremely tricky from the off. Certain modes have a barrier around the game screen,meaning that should you fly to the edge of the screen for any reason, your ship explodes and its game over! Of course, this would be OK if the controls were easy enough to navigate your ship away from the edges of the screen at any given time, but oh the controls!
The ships move pretty decently, with players able to obtain power ups in attack and defence from destroyed enemies as you progress and survive, but the actual control system, in my view, is completely baffling!? For example..holding the left stick would rotate your ship continuously left for 360 degrees right? NO.. It actually stops turning and locks, meaning that should you be heading to the edge of the screen and impending death, you have to suddenly correct by turning the stick to the right just so your ship can rotate right and thrust out of the screen edge!? Combine this with the mass of debris, and everything else trying to end your voyage quickly and you can guess, that every game ends very quickly indeed!
In summary, Super Mega Space Blaster is a game that requires perseverance and patience. What could have been fluid and satisfying gameplay, is let down by tricky controls and very short space runs at a time. Developers have added more on screen to the Asteroids formula but given you less space in order to deal with it!
On the plus side, the price is decent and it’s most certainly enticing for the space shoot em up purist out there. Yet for me, and I would consider a lot of gamers out there, as the title may suggest otherwise, the whole game experience overall, feels rather underwhelming.
Thanks to Bare Knuckle Development for the code.