Tagged: shooter

Top-down, Side-scrolling Aces of the Lufwaffe hurts my brain

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Verticality makes perfect sense for arcade games; the less width each machine takes up, the more you can cram side by side. It makes even more sense for arcade shooters, providing more space to see the bullet hell ahead of you. Home versions of these games, however, have struggled with reshaping that vertical presentation to fit square CRTs and now widescreen formats. The best solutions have been to shrink down the game to fit the height of the TV screen or to physically turn the TV on its side.

Aces of the Luftwaffe takes that less-than-ideal physical solution and applies it to the game itself, rotating the vertical shooter action on its side. I’m no shooter historian but this is the first top-down shmup I can think of that scrolls left to right and it’s a little unsettling to see in action. It wasn’t designed this way from the beginning — Aces has been around on mobile devices since 2008 — but it’s a clever twist that lets the action fill the screen instead of being shrunk down. It also looks like a hearty challenge and is currently $4.99 on PlayStation 4 and Steam. Or check it out for free on iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone or the Amazon app store.

Shoot up YOUR music right now

When I last posted about SHMUSICUP I was under the assumption it would be some kind of downloadable game. Plans are still under way to release it for local play but there’s a free open beta complete with unlockables and achievements that you can play right now in a conveniently located New Tab. Sit through a quick commercial and then you’re free to choose any mp3 you’ve got on a local drive and shoot your way through its sine waves.

Of course, you’ll get much more from pre-ordering the game at its currently discounted rate of $9.95. Access to 4 more bosses, difficulty settings, all three “characters” and Blinding Mode which is guarded by a sizable photo sensitivity warning. The eventual downloadable version comes at no extra charge as well but there’s plenty to play for free right now so give it a shot!

Shoot Your Music again in SHMUSICUP

Are you ready to shoot at your music? Again? I’m starting to tire of these your-music-is-the-bullets games after spending years with AudioSurf and Beat Hazard but I’m nonetheless intrigued by this latest entry: SHMUSICUP. At least it’s a clever title that keeps me from having to say shoot-em-up. It’s also unique in that this one is a top-down shooter with the winged anime-style Lyric as your main character and monster bosses that turn everything from Brahms to Bieber into bullet hell. I also like that the sidebar displays the album art and track info and there’s a stop button right on screen if ‘Like a Surgeon’ isn’t working out so well.

I’ve praised AudioSurf and Beat Hazard in the past as everlasting fun but came to burn out on them pretty quickly. Will the same happen with SHMUSICUP? Who knows, but it looks fun enough to give it a shot whenever it makes a release.

Done Playing: Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)

I finally managed to get the cryptic end-game choices just right in order to unlock a specific Achievement and thought it was well beyond time to make my first (and last?) post on Mass Effect 2. Rather than attempt to pussy-foot my way around any spoilers, and with little interest in simply explaining how the game plays, I thought I’d put on my Something-to-Say hat and jab at a big idea for a little bit. I’ll take no credit for coming up with this as I’ve heard tentative whispers echoing the same sentiment since we all started working through the game, but I will throw my voice behind it: Mass Effect 2 could be the touchstone for a new generation of games.

I’m not trying to say fantasy and swords and swarthy English accents are going away, there will always be people passionate about making and playing RPGs like that. But the way Bioware has boiled down the traditional role-playing elements while whipping their shooter gameplay to a deliciously frothy consistency has yielded an experience that has me ready for more; a second playthrough, a new book, Mass Effect 3. That I — the guy whose RPG lust peaked and crashed with Final Fantasy VII — am anxious for anything I can get my hands on probably says it a lot better than anything I can put into words.

Beyond myself, though, Mass Effect 2 shows that you can mix role-playing games with more than just grid-based strategy as long as you tailor the experience accordingly. RPG fans don’t need the bro-heavy antics of Gears of War or the cruel challenge of Ninja Gaiden. Fans of those action-oriented games most likely don’t want a laundry list of sidequests or endless skill trees and gear to manage. Mass Effect 2 almost effortlessly combines the two while tapping into this modern age of mashups where spastically short internet media is subconsciously changing the experiences we enjoy. Eighty hours of gameplay is a great return-on-investment but most people don’t feel they need that exhaustive of an experience these days.

Boil it down and it’s not much different than aping Halo’s console-shooter controls, Kill.switch’s cover mechanics, or the ubiquitous good/bad morality system of half-a-million other games. It’s like Bioware took those little iterative steps for ten years, jumped into a time machine, and brought it all back to 2010. Instant evolution without all that tiresome waiting. I’m getting way over my head here but I wanted to put this out there so when Final Fantasy plays more like Brute Force than Blue Dragon (yeah, think about that!) I can say I kinda saw it coming.

Done Playing: Blast Works (Wii), Plus Revelations!

We’re just getting into this whole user-created content thing with titles like LittleBigPlanet and Spore so there’s bound to be a few surprises along the way. Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy — one of the first efforts and a generally overlooked release — sure surprised me with a user-created conflict of interest. While I’m all for homemade content, what am I supposed to do if I just don’t like the gameplay? Let me explain the basics first.

Like most other shooters you’re piloting a ship and forging through a deluge of enemies across an array of colorful and stylized worlds. The catch is that every enemy you shoot down can be caught and attached to your craft, giving you additional firepower and a layer of makeshift armor. It’s sorta like Katamari Damacy and R-Type mashed together. It’s funny at first and you can just start to see a strategic element building but it falls short.

As your airborne glob takes damage the junk you’ve collected starts flying off, spinning wildly and mingling on screen with identical ships that are attacking you. It becomes impossible to differentiate what you can and can’t grab hold of and when you do manage to snatch something it’s usually pointing in a useless direction, sending powerful attacks screaming right off the screen. The only other button in use allows you to suck in all the junk you’ve picked up to keep it from being blasted off, leaving you a slow-moving, underpowered target unable to pick up any more stuff. That’s as deep as the gameplay goes.

After a handful of stock Arcade stages with uninspired attack patterns and lame end bosses I thought maybe I was missing out on something. After all, the game’s tagline is “Build, Trade, Destroy” and I’d effectively jumped right to the Destroying part. It’d be like loading up LittleBigPlanet and totally ignoring the ability to create stuff. So I back tracked to the main menu and loaded up the Editor which somehow managed to be an even bigger disappointment than the game I’d already played through.

I won’t even try to explain it but I will point out how impossibly hard it is to create anything after pointing your arm at the screen for a few minutes. Fine tuning polygon placement with the Wii Remote was a tiring ordeal in MySims and it’s no easier here in Blast Works. You can use the D-pad and Nunchuk for traditional control but the interface itself turned me off all the same. Rest assured that should you decide to climb the Editor’s staggering learning curve you’ll need all the tutorial instructions you can get. These are conveniently located outside of the game, on your computer, on the internet, in PDF format.

Unable to create an online component through the Wii itself, Majesco has chosen to support the game’s community via BlastWorksDepot.com. Through an impressive Web 2.0 interface you can browse a huge library of user-created stages and ships, rate and comment on them, meet and greet other players, and queue content up for download. Then it’s back to the Wii for the actual download into the game and onto the console’s limited internal memory. It’s a disjointed process in this burgeoning age of in-game store fronts, but it works.

Seeing the latest creations come streaming in and perusing the huge catalog of content has been a revelation to me in more ways than one. First, this game that I really don’t like has a dedicated group of fans crafting content and uploading it on a daily basis months after the initial release. And second, it’s made me realize that user-created content can only go so far. The day will probably come when consumers have the tools to create an entire game of their own from scratch, but until then there has to be a defined core to build off of.

Just as there is no way to turn LittleBigPlanet into an MMORPG, there’s no way to extend Blast Works beyond its basic and gimmicky shooter gameplay. All the homemade bikini-girl ships and video game cameos can do nothing but change the look of a game that I already don’t care for. I do, however, respect Majesco’s work at building a community and those who have populated it with their own artistic creations. For this, Blast Works gets a recommendation. Everyone should at least try it, because if you do enjoy the gameplay there’s an immense community of like-minded gamers to meet and a chance to bring your own visions to life. Surely that makes Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy worth its rental price.