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Super Arcade Boy in Defender of Planet Earth (PC) artwork

Super Arcade Boy in Defender of Planet Earth (PC) review

"It's dirt cheap and the screenshots don't look that bad, do they? Don't you do it..."

There’s nothing quite like playing a game that has the feel of being produced as a dare. Like, the developer was challenged by a friend: “I bet you can’t make your own side-scrolling shoot-em-up!” And nonplussed, the developer responded, “Watch me!” And then Super Arcade Boy in Defender of Planet Earth was made manifest, coerced into being, like a high school science experiment.

Super Arcade Boy has the distinction of being the most primitive shooter I’ve played post-NES, and I’ve played a lot of shooters in that span. There are eight levels which meet the most basic requirements for being called ‘levels;’ a handful of crudely drawn alien orbs or space craft dances onto the screen – and the first four are of the type which hurl themselves at you in a straight line, as power up-holding fodder.

If you thought that sounded a bit like Gradius, you're right: Super Arcade Boy's entire shooter exoskeleton is lifted wholesale from Konami's classic, right down to the power ups offered: speed up, bomb, two-way gun, and laser. Curiously, you’ll have to earn your loadout from scratch in each level, presumably because level-to-level weapon progression would make the game even easier than it already is.

Super Arcade Boy in Defender of Planet Earth (PC) image

Each level ‘boasts’ two scenes – you’ll either be in the nothingness of deep space, or else in the Standard Space Cavern we all know and love. There are palette swaps of the latter, so yes, this is one of those games where you’ll describe stages as “the blue level,” and so on, in the absence of any other distinguishing features.

Closing out the very short levels are, predictably, the Gradius-inspired bosses. Big, colourful spaceships that look like they were cut from poster board and pasted onto the field of play, they vary only in appearance and projectile speed. Each one behaves in exactly the same fashion, bringing to bear the always intimidating, slow top-to-bottom screen wipe, while firing a three-way spread of projectiles the size of your ship. You won't have to find any Achilles' heel to exploit, as hitting any part of their considerable bulk will register damage.

Super Arcade Boy would be a breeze to anyone with any sort of shmup pedigree, but for the inclusion of one sequence about two-thirds of the way through, and another in the last stage: both will require some tight cave wall navigation. At first glance, you’ll think nothing of it, as the layout looks like something you should manage by employing just a bit of care. And then, in the execution, you’ll come to realize just how slippery and imprecise your ship controls – it just hadn’t mattered up until those points because of the lack of challenge everywhere else.

Super Arcade Boy in Defender of Planet Earth (PC) image

In an odd attempt to give the game a certain uniqueness, someone thought it would be a good idea to have some ’humorous banter’ go on between the hero and the alien leader before the start of each level. It’s silly at best, and empty, cringeworthy palaver at all other times, and I’d have preferred to forgo these intermissions altogether.

All in all, Super Arcade Boy is a sad affair that I’m loathe to piss on because the whole thing smacks of a very tiny independent effort. But when you can get Satazius on sale (or any other proper Steam shmup for that matter) at about the same price point, this shooter is literally impossible to recommend.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (October 28, 2017)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 29, 2017:

Haha, good review!

I've found a lot of games like this on Steam, like someone released a class assignment or a test game. Most of them were walking simulators with stock environments.
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Masters posted October 29, 2017:

Thanks. And agreed. What's quality control?
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hastypixels posted October 30, 2017:

It's a point I keep bringing up... being Indie isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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