Posts Tagged ‘shooter’

Contra Review

Contra Featured

Contra Box Art

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Arcade, Console – NES, PC – Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX2, ZX Spectrum

Contra is one of those games folks can’t help but talk about. Comments circle around its high difficulty as well as the infamous Konami code which grants players thirty much-needed lives. The thing is, I never even touched the original Contra before. The closest I came to understanding its hectic 2D action was through playing the spiritual successor Hard Corps: Uprising

Thanks to a shiny new Raspberry Pi 3 in my possession (and watching the “This is the Run” video series on Giant Bomb), I decided it was finally time to take on Contra. Don’t worry, the NES cart is also in my possession. Unlike most players, this meant I was already armed with knowledge of how to defeat bosses and what challenges lie in wait. None of this made the experience a cake walk.

Contra Featured

When people say Contra is hard they mean it. The earlier stages aren’t quite so bad, but once you reach the middle there are bullets flying every which way as enemies constantly run onscreen. The challenge is compounded by one hit kills and a piddly default gun (which resets all power ups upon death). Securing a better weapon such as the spread gun is awesome – but often short-lived.

Contra is also super weird thematically. Despite being named with relation to the Iran-Contra affair, it bears little resemblance to real life events past the introductory level. Very quickly players move beyond the jungle setting with army-looking dudes to huge monsters, alien space ships, and more. None of this detracts from it being a white knuckle, badass experience. Anyone up for the challenge should definitely try their hand at Contra.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Chaos Engine Review

The Chaos Engine Featured

The Chaos Engine Logo

Developer: The Bitmap Brothers
Publisher: Mastertronic
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Now, I’d never played The Chaos Engine in the past but somehow the game always stuck with me. Thanks to the ‘remastered’ version on Steam I’ve finally gotten to play this Amiga classic. Although it might not be very in-depth, I found it quite enjoyable, if difficult. Just make sure to not turn on smoothing if you have any affinity toward pixel art.

The basics of The Chaos Engine are that it’s a top down action game. You select from a cast of characters (each with unique weapons) and play alongside a co-op partner. This partner can be a real person via local or online play or simply a computer-controlled buddy. Of course, enlisting a real friend is the best idea.

The Chaos Engine Featured

Apparently this version of the game has been made a bit harder than the original release. If so, it definitely shows. Although it looks like you can go guns blazing through the stage, slow progression is really the way to go. I found myself creeping toward the edges of the screen so as not to be jumped by an enemy. Some ram into you while others shoot bullets and in either case it’s all terribly damaging. For whatever reason, characters start with very low health. It’s definitely a challenging game but enjoyably so.

One change was making the game have “360 degree” shooting. It’s more like 8-way shooting but it works well. You can play on a gamepad (not just of the Xbox 360 variety) as well, which is pretty cool. This ended up being my preferred method of play. My biggest issue with The Chaos Engine is a severe lack of level passwords to return to old stages in online matches. Fans have been clamoring for this for over a year so such an update is unlikely. Overall, I enjoy the difficulty and just wish there were ways to temper it when needed.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Gigantic Army Review

Gigantic Army Featured

Gigantic Army Boxart

Developer: Astro Port
Publisher: Nyu Media
Platform: PC – Direct, Desura, GamersGate, Rice Digital, Steam

If mechs are your thing then Gigantic Army is probably already on your radar. The doujin title brings back memories of classic SNES and Genesis games, although it isn’t attempting to recreate any of those titles exactly. What Gigantic Army does best is give more realistic control of a huge robot on a 2D battlefield.

Your machine is massive and it feels the part. Each step is slow and heavy, clunking as you progress forward. This isn’t a bad thing in the least, although you might need to get used to the feel of controlling such a hefty robot. Enemies blast you continuously but most shots feel like nothing against your machine’s powerful armor. In fact, often times you can simply trod up to a weak little enemy and destroy it point blank. It’s pretty cool how powerful the game allows you to be!

Does that mean Gigantic Army is a super easy game? Not at all. Levels get progressively tougher, although if you need a better challenge you can always switch difficulty. If anything, it seems your toughest enemy is the clock. It counts down as soon as you start the stage – impatiently waiting for the player to finish. With that said, you can make the game easier (or harder) on yourself by the right selection of main and sub weapon as well. They aren’t all balanced in power levels meaning ones like the grenades are super powerful while others are far less so.

Gigantic Army Featured

The graphics paint a pretty dismal picture for the state of this war-torn world. Everything is painted in hues of brown and orange, with bullets being the most brightly-colored objects around. Enemy designs aren’t particularly inspired although bosses are still pretty neat and huge. Unlike most action shooters, this one doesn’t have a tremendously inspiring soundtrack either, which is a definite shame.

Still, Gigantic Army is a ton of fun to play. It feels great to be in control of such a powerful mech as it sprays enemies with bullets, boosts up to higher ground, and defends against weakling attacks. The ponderous movement definitely enhances the concept that you are in control the minute you enter a stage. Kicking robot butt is always entertaining and if you love that then Gigantic Army is a game you should play.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Jets’n’Guns Gold Review

Jets'n'Guns Gold Featured

Jets'n'Guns Gold Logo

Developer: Rake in Grass
Publisher: Rake in Grass
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

Shooters (not the FPS sort) are one of my favorite genres to play despite my total lack of ability with them. There’s something about attempting to weave tiny ships through enemy bullets, fight gigantic bosses, and somehow come out alive in the end. Jets’n’Guns Gold is a more modern shooter but that hardly stops it from being a contender for the title of classic.

Jets’n’Guns Gold gets so much perfect that it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the screen – and more importantly – your hands from the controls. As with many shooters, the game starts you off by loading players into a fairly svelte ship and forcing them right into the action. Enemies don’t pull their punches, even on easy. And this might make me sound completely weird, but you can almost feel your ship taking the bullets. Shots feel heavy and powerful as they should.

If you keep getting killed then it might be a good time to try swapping out weapons for other equipment. The more stages you complete, the more are unlocked for use. Getting comfortable with certain loadouts is appealing, but it’s worth experimenting as well. Of course, even trying out different ship customization might not be able to help some. I, for one, spent a great deal of time on early levels simply because everything was too hectic! It’s a shame that easy difficulty couldn’t have been actually easy.

Jets'n'Guns Gold Featured

The gameplay is definitely solid and is backed up by an excellent soundtrack and attractive graphics. Although the art itself isn’t completely inspiring, seeing what creative ships and enemy types they came up with is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s just my eyes but everything did seem a bit small though, making some bullets smash into me without ever seeing them approach. On the other hand, the music is fantastic. For some reason, most shooters have excellent soundtracks and Jets’n’Guns Gold is no exception.

Fans of shooters should have already picked this up when it initially launched in 2006. If you somehow missed out on it though then now is definitely the time to jump on board. Newbie shooter fans might want to hold off on a purchase just yet, unless you’re ready to lose a lot before really digging into the experience. Jets’n’Guns Gold is succinctly defined with just one word: Awesome.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Velocity Ultra Review

Velocity Ultra Logo

Velocity Ultra Logo

Developer: FuturLab, Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Studios
Platform: PSN – PS3, Vita PC – Steam

Velocity was a lovely little shooter that launched on PS3 and Vita in 2012 to favorable reviews but it seemed that many gamers simply missed out on it. Velocity Ultra is basically the same game, but given a nice HD coat of paint. Now that I’ve finally played it, I’m amazed to how the original game ever managed to slip under the radar of so many.

Velocity Ultra is a scrolling sci-fi shooter but does many things to make it a far more engaging experience than most. Your ship comes with a host of features that are introduced one by one. First, you have the ability to speed boost at will which comes in handy when you need to blast through a stage. There is also an unlimited supply of bombs to help you shoot down or to the side (as with most traditional ships which can’t shoot in any direction but up). Another neat feature is the ability to teleport around. Not only can this get you out of a tight spot between bullets, but it is also necessary when obstacles get in the way.

These might not sound like groundbreaking changes but they come together in such a way that the game is tremendously fun. Although there are no difficulty selections, it really feels like Velocity Ultra caters to a wide audience. Shooter newbies as well as regular players could likely both enjoy it. But what about people who don’t necessarily dig the genre? Even then, the game offers up ways to change the standard formula.

Velocity Ultra Screenshot 1

Gameplay modes vary from stage to stage but sometimes the game suddenly becomes a puzzler. This is done via numbered gates that need to be hit in order to “unlock” an area. However, branching paths make it so you can rarely unlock a zone in one go. Instead, you have to put down a warp (or series of them) in order to return to forks and travel down different paths. Sometimes, paths are nearly hidden by being way off to the side of the screen. Not only do you have to contend with enemies but you must discover all gates!

Despite being only an average shooter fan, I was able to blast through the first forty stages with little issue. After that, you’ve got to return to previous levels to rack up more points to have enough for the last few. The fifty stages are excellent and offer a great deal of replay value. You can compete with yourself to try and get a gold medal time, save all survivors, or destroy all enemy waves for bonuses. Of course, you can also try climbing the ranks of the online leaderboard.

Although Velocity Ultra is entertaining enough just from a gameplay standpoint, the rest of the package blends together wonderfully. For one, the visuals look crisp and stylish. The music is in a whole other league together, with each track being extremely cool and fun to listen to. Personally, I’m fighting the urge to buy the soundtrack! The only downside to the music is that it doesn’t loop, meaning there are moments where no music plays at all before restarting again.

Velocity Ultra Screenshot 2

For all this glowing adoration, there were a few issues lurking on the sidelines. At times, I would warp into a wall (though you’re not supposed to). It’s easy enough to warp back out, but it would always freak me out and cost precious time. Also, it feels like the screen isn’t offering enough vertical space to see what’s coming next. For a vertically scrolling shooter to not have a standard vertically oriented screen is fairly alien to me, although it was probably done to benefit the lateral searching on some stages. Finally, the game is designed with controllers in mind so watch out if you want to play with keyboard.

Velocity Ultra is such a fun game it’s hard to knock it too much. The developers managed to create a shooter that isn’t just fun for genre fans but for new players as well. Anyone looking for a different sort of shooter will find what they’re looking for in Velocity Ultra.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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MURI Review

MURI Featured

MURI Logo

Developer: Ludosity, Remar Games
Publisher: Ludosity, Remar Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Although my first computer was an Apple IIe, some of my fondest memories came after obtaining a magnificent machine running Windows 95. It was then that I gained a taste for rip-offs of more popular games. I didn’t play DOOM –  I had Chex Quest. I didn’t play Command & Conquer but took up 7th Legion instead. In any case, even these titles were fairly similar to what they duplicated. MURI, a modern shooter evoking a retro aesthetic, brings me right back to my youth.

The game is most comparable to titles such as the original Duke Nukem and Commander Keen. In MURI, you play as a scientist and mother named Adwoa. She has just helped design a new and powerful armored suit, but this causes unrest. Suddenly, as Mars disappears, everyone dons their suits and engages in battle. Although the story isn’t particularly deep, it was really cool to see Adwoa as the lead.

As would be expected from a retro PC game, it is a 2D platformer and shooter. There are four stages in all and you must work through them to find the exits. Of course, enemies dot the landscape and hardly want to let anyone pass. By default, the gun is rather weak, but this all changes upon grabbing power-ups. Goodies like “Mega” grant powerful homing bullets while “MKV” spews bullets out in a fan shape. Despite the simplistic play, it is a ton of fun.

MURI Screenshot

However, modern players might be fussed by MURI’s slow controls. This is because the game can run at 16FPS – an atrocity in this age. Personally, I really dug it but it’s easy to see why this could bug people. For one, it is harder to switch directions and time dodges as well. If this is an issue for you, simply switch to the turbo mode which brings the framerate up to 32. With that framerate selected the game moves far smoother.

Attention to retro detail wasn’t just provided in gameplay style and framerate. The visuals and audio also stand up to a DOS feel. The colors and blocky pixels feel directly out of the era. This definitely isn’t a game simply using the term “retro” wildly. Research was obviously done to make the color palettes as accurate as possible. Similarly, the sound attempts to emulate PC speaker sound. Yep, in all its blaring glory. It wasn’t annoying to me but there is an option to turn the sound off if need be.

MURI comes with multiple difficulty selections meaning most will be able to beat it. Playing on easy took me under two hours to complete, but normal took a little longer. I’ve yet to try the next difficulties but they are likely a far greater challenge. After all, the game’s name does translate to “impossible”. All in all, MURI was a tremendously fun experience and I just wish there were more levels to play. Maybe if I send a letter to the developer they’ll mail me a floppy with more?


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Savant – Ascent Review

Savant - Ascent Featured

Savant - Ascent Boxart

Developer: D-Pad Studio
Publisher: D-Pad Studio
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Direct, GamersGate, Steam

Usually, when musical artists venture into the world of video games the results are, well, not so great. There are such “classics” as the Make My Video series on Sega CD featuring INXS, Kriss Kross, and Marky Mark. Then there are more modern but equally unusual titles such as 50 Cent’s shooters. Those who recognize SAVANT as a musician might fear the same fate for Savant – Ascent. Thankfully, his input didn’t create some ego-stroking game-based catastrophe.

Savant – Ascent is a 2D shooter with a bit of a twin stick vibe even though that’s not really the case. On each stage you control Savant and must shoot up enemies that come at him from all angles. However, stages are quite small. Instead of running around you simply dodge left, right, or jump. Shooting is controlled via mouse or a controller’s analog stick. Sometimes, baddies will explode and leave a CD piece behind. Collecting and completing the four CDs grants Savant upgrades.

Upgrades are incredibly useful and basically necessary to beat the game. Therefore, you’ll probably spend a lot of the first stage trying to collect them. Savant – Ascent is pretty fast paced so it won’t take long. The most useful upgrades for me were the first and third, as they allowed for an extra powerful shot and markers for incoming enemies respectively. One negative thing is that it can be hard to notice the enemy notifications and sometimes there are none if the game thinks you already see the approaching attack.

Savant - Ascent Featured

So basically, this is quite a tough experience. Even after obtaining all upgrades there’s still a degree of skill (or just plain persistence) required to win. But doing so doesn’t take very long at all. There are three quite cool stages and a cool two-part boss fight… And that’s all. Completing the story mode took under an hour and that’s coming from someone who is not particularly skillful with most games. Yes, there is a time trial and endless mode, and Savant – Ascent is based on scoring, but it’s still quite short. When you factor in the price – $1.99 – it seems far more sensible.

Although the game has fully launched on PC there are some issues that need addressing. For one, having an Xbox 360 controller plugged in at launch causes issues with keyboard and mouse control. All you have to do is unplug it if you wish to use them, but the simple error is unfortunate. There was also a time when I received a “fatal error” upon barely starting a level and had to quit the game entirely. Blemishes like these are far from game-breaking but will definitely turn some people from it before even playing.

Interestingly, D-Pad Studios have committed to providing more stages and music in the future at no extra cost. If this turns out to be true then it’ll be a great way to enhance the value. As it stands, the current music is a lot of fun even if you’re not a SAVANT fan. Similarly, the visuals are crisp although I have to wonder if the final boss design was wise. As it stands, Savant – Ascent is a brief, but entertaining little game. If it can be spruced up to fix a couple of errors and see new content then it will definitely be worth returning to.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Intake Review

Intake Featured

Intake Boxart

Developer: Cipher Prime Studios
Publisher: Cipher Prime Studios
Platform: PC – Steam

Arcade shooters are one of my biggest guilty pleasures. I’m not generally very good at them, but they suck up my time all the same. Despite having experienced many flavors of shooters, Intake was still quite a surprise. The latest game by Cipher Prime Studios distills the shooter down to its most basic parts (which also happen to be the most “addictive”.

And, unlike most games, addictive is a fair word to use although not for the reasons you might be expecting. Instead of cluttering the screen with spaceships, penguins, or robotic fish, Intake has players taking aim at pills. The pills come in a variety of colors and your goal is to shoot them before they reach the bottom of the screen. If too many make it past then you overdose – game over.

Each stage has two colored pills and you’ll increase your multiplyer by being set to the proper color when destroying a pill. There are a few other subtleties, but for the most part gameplay is easy to grasp. Upgrades can also be purchased to allow for new powerups to appear during play. Some slow down the descending pills, while others make them gigantic for easy clicking.

Intake Screenshot

The unusual drug theme is paired with Cipher Prime’s typically gorgeous but trippy presentation style. Pills have an unearthly glow about them while the entire game has a neon glow about it. For the most part, the screen is clean, although that doesn’t make shooting a barrage of pills any easier. Of course, the visual subject matter might be off-putting for some, and that’s a totally fair reason to avoid Intake.

One reason I wasn’t completely sold on the game had to do with the soundtrack. While it is fitting, there are only three tracks in the game (two of which are expensive unlocks). You can play your own music over the game, but then the subtle connections the pills have to music are useless. Another hardship I encountered was simply running into a difficulty wall. Yes, determination will eventually get most players past it, but personally I would have loved to see some difficulty selectors or ability to select stages at will like shooters often do.

Considering Intake gets so much right though I’m willing to let most of this slide. The game is still simple to understand and fun to play repeatedly. It’s just such a shame there aren’t more songs included to change things up! Pick it up if you’re so inclined, but remember to take breaks from Intake every once in a while. Your wrists will thank you.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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