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Super Star Path (PC) artwork

Super Star Path (PC) review

"An interesting idea has to begin somewhere."

When you think of shoot 'em ups, it's easy to conjure up a typical image of a super-powered ship or a flying girl causing "simple" chaos against an army that fills the screen with projectiles, and basically nothing else. While the genre is much more varied than that, it's easy to forget, until something like Super Star Path comes along with an interesting premise. A vertical shoot 'em up, the game places you in control of a super-powered ship against aliens, of varying colors, that clog the screen in droves. You can fire at them, but there's a catch: you need to fire the ones connected to aliens of the same color, as doing so causes a chain reaction, destroying a chunk of the alien wall. Yes, SSP is a shoot 'em up with color-matching puzzle elements.

These alien "barriers" aren't simply situated at the top of the screen, either. The walls scroll downward, pressuring you to carve open pathways quickly with chain reactions and hope you don't get pinned in a corner. How would you conceivably get stuck if you can blast your way out? Well, if you shoot an alien when there's others next to it with conflicting colors, those enemies become frozen and indestructible. Lending to the challenge, there are opponents that are different from the color-matching aliens, acting as separate entities with distinct quirks. In one stage, you have to deal with jellyfish creatures that roam the open spaces of the barriers. In another, there's mines scattered about that activate when near them, along with spike traps that thrust out of their own volition.

It's a neat fusion of ideas that genuinely works with a shoot 'em up template, but Super Star Path also comes with some unwanted baggage.

The game is clearly designed in such a way that forces replaying stages over and over again, and this is very evident when starting the game for the first time, where everything comes off surprisingly strict; you have an extremely weak ship that can't shoot through certain obstacles, and it can also be destroyed in one hit. The latter is a glaring problem when you factor in the tight spacing of the stages and the narrow paths created, though thankfully, the color-matching aliens can't harm you on contact, with the exception of being trapped and crushed. However, it's very easy to bump into a non-barrier enemy in the midst of frantically clearing space, undoing all your work. Even if you pass the wall segment, you still have to contend with the stage's boss and its rapid bullet patterns on your lone life.

Due to this ploy of artificially extending its length, Super Star Path is one of those weird instances where a game becomes easier, or at least manageable, as progress is made. This is done in the form of obtaining dropped gems (currency) and upgrade items, so you can purchase additional ships, power, and extra health. While I don't mind purchasing ships and upgrading, the inclusion of this feature in this particular release feels shoehorned. In a naturally lengthier game, this seems sensible, but for something that only has six stages, each lasting a solid three to five minutes each, the option to purchase nine additional ships is overkill. And the only reason stages feel longer is because of the constant dying and the constant need to grind for stronger ships for the climax.

Realistically, this is a 30-minute game stretched out to an hour/hour and a half, depending on how good your reflexes are. Even so, there's also the added nuisance of dealing with the randomized barrier patterns after restarting a stage, as this sometimes leads to, regardless of your efforts, being imprisoned. Though, I'm most lenient on this issue compared to the others, since it doesn't happen too often, and I believe it wouldn't stick out as much if the other issues weren't present. But in spite of these faults and the brief time it takes to conquer, Super Star Path still has a surprisingly charming aura that manages to shine through. When the flaws don't weigh down the flow, you can really get into the hectic vibe of the action, desperately fighting through hordes of 16-bit inspired, pixelated aliens.

I wish a sequel can come out of this, but only if the concept is fleshed out in an appropriate manner, and not artificially to make the game seem longer.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (August 14, 2016)

Even after reviewing all these Double Dragon games, it's crazy to think there's still a ton of games left to review due to varying interpretations.


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