It’s evident from the one-man passion project of Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo that there’s a deep love of Asteroids and Geometry Wars, but can it hold up to its standards or is it setting itself up for failure?
SMSBST is a space shoot ‘em up (shmup for short) with upgrade systems, bullet hell elements and different main modes to try out. The gameplay itself is a little slow but overall pretty solid; it’s certainly easy to get used to. The gameplay is one of the best parts about SMSBST. As a love letter to old shoot ‘em ups, it does a great job. Furthermore, the amount of content in this game absolutely justifies the price. It has multiple single player and multiplayer modes, with the options for the former coming in the form of “Protect Mother”, “Survival” and “Save The Colony”.
Protect Mother is a mode where the bottom of the screen is taken up by the mothership; a ship which regularly fires rockets and gives power-ups in incremental amounts, based on your combo. You may choose which of the three main power-up types it gives you each time they are earned. Once the mothership loses all its health, it’s game over. This, very much like the other modes, is a simple yet replayable section of gameplay often lasting just a few minutes at a time.
“Survival” does what it says on the tin. It tells you, the player, that your space blaster has limited fuel and a broken blaster system. This means you have to stay vigilant of three main things: your bullets, your fuel and all the enemies on screen. If you last more than four minutes (which is more challenging than it looks) then you get to fight a final boss in order to win. You can collect upgrades with in-game coins that make this easier, allowing you to do such things as remove barriers at the side of the screen and add a fuel tank when you’re low on fuel. Despite these upgrades, Super Mega Space Blaster never feels easy, just easier.
The last single player mode and my personal favourite is “Save The Colony.” This is something that is reminiscent of Resogun, where the player aims to save a total of 33 characters in space, before bringing them home. Once this is done, you take on the final boss (the same boss as in Survival), winning once all the conditions are met. This is certainly the easiest mode of the three for beginners to start with, but possibly the hardest to finish.
All of these game modes can be played in single player but the multiplayer modes also shine through. In “One Shot”, you get one bullet at a time and try to kill each other. Perhaps strangely this reminds me of one in the chamber from Call Of Duty Black Ops – though with a little less screaming children. And then we have the “To The Death” mode which works like a nice mix between the “Protect Mother” mode and Super Puzzle Fighter’s fighting system. Both of these are a lot of fun and will last until your opponent is bored of losing.
With the good though comes the bad, and whilst Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo offers a variety of modes and content for its price point, it does have some downsides. The sound design and art direction are very child focused, and not in a way I appreciated during my playtime. This may be going for the Nintendo style family fun, yet it more approaches the realm of a children’s education flash game with simplistic meteor design and odd Rabbid-esque noises on behalf of the colony. These design choices are similar to the sample unity game building toolkit which is unfortunate, as I’m sure the dev put a lot of effort into them. The music is also limited and fairly repetitive to the point where, although it made sense to buy upgrades, I spent extra points to get more songs just to hear something new. In this sense, SMSBST often works better when you listen to your own choice of music rather than that supplied by the game. The plus side here is you won’t have to listen to the colony.
Unfortunately the art and sound design are very off-putting, pretty much on a minute to minute basis. Furthermore, Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo doesn’t offer much to the table that hasn’t been added before. The issue with making an homage game is it’s hard to not feel too similar. Whilst this game feels good to play, it is ultimately derivative in design. This coupled with the art and music often made me want to just play a different shoot ’em up.
Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo on Xbox One does a lot of things well, especially given the price point, but ultimately those great things are sullied by strange design choices and weak design. If, from looking at gameplay, these things don’t get in the way of the experience, then you can’t go wrong for the price but I can’t see myself going back to this shooter very often.