Space Shot (PlayStation) review
"Space Shot is in many ways an across-the-board shoot ‘em up clone, taking bits from Darius, (enemy formations) Thunder Force V, (the last boss, the O.V.D. charge weapon) and various other transgressions. But fortunately, and surprisingly, the game enters the Playstation shooter fray with a few wholly unique gameplay functions that elevate it above the fairness of 4-dom. "
Cyber, Wells and Nigo—three losers on a mission
You’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking. “What a great title!” Yes, Space Shot might be the most clever name for a space shooter that I have ever come across.
The game itself is an oddity. It’s a basic side-scrolling shooter released by A-1 games, the cheapie game division of Agetec. The name and the knowledge of the developers should prep you on what to expect: mediocrity. But hey, at least it doesn’t cost much, Agetec might tell us.
Before we embark on our mission, and between levels, we are privileged enough to witness some very strange cut scenes. The computer animation is fair, featuring a trio of well-modeled losers who must be heroes, while unknown forces manipulate them from the shadows. There's a story here that I won't give away, albeit predictable and somewhat silly. But at least an effort was made. The characters are Cyber, the obligatory cool guy in black leather; Wells, the easily excitable, bespectacled virgin; and most singular of all, Nigo, the technical wonder boy, who looks and sounds like a girl wearing braces. Everything is in Japanese, and we are forced to hear the wild ranting subtitled with nonsensical rapport between the three stooges. It's meant to be funny, and cool, but it's really only funny in a kitsch sort of way.
Space Shot is in many ways an across-the-board shoot ‘em up clone, taking bits from Darius, (enemy formations) Thunder Force V, (the last boss, the O.V.D. charge weapon) and various other transgressions. But fortunately, and surprisingly, the game enters the Playstation shooter fray with a few wholly unique gameplay functions that elevate it above the fairness of 4-dom.
Firstly, you’ve got an interesting missile weapon at your disposal. It allows you to track enemies with a flashlight-like spread effect, lock-on, and release dozens of streaking projectiles that will absolutely crush weaker enemies. It sounds great, and at times it can be, but in the heat of the battle, I did not call upon it much because enabling the lock-on is a bit ponderous, and your basic weapon serves just as well.
And speaking of your basic weapon, expect the typical Vulcan cannon that we’ve come to know and despise in shooters to be your only primary shot. That’s right. You’ve got no power ups, nor cute little droids, nor mini-me satellites to help you out. At the front of your spacecraft, a mechanism resembling a tuning fork determines how your Vulcan is fired. If you pull your ship backwards, the three ‘prongs’ will fire forward in a single stream. Release the fire button momentarily and push forward slightly, and the prongs will upon up somewhat, firing one stream straight ahead, and two diagonally; up and forward, and down and forward. Pushing forward all the way when not firing will have the mechanism swing round to the back of the craft, where the exact same positions can be facilitated. So despite the limitations of the one weapon, with no allowances for upgrades, this firepower function manages to keep things interesting.
Even more interesting is Space Shot’s Boost feature. With the press of a button, your ship can surge in any direction that you like. The maneuver is ideal for making quick escapes from bullets that you’ve left until the last moment to dodge, (for whatever reason) and the game rewards you for these ‘escapes’ with extra points. Very satisfying. The Boost skill does more than get you out of sticky situations with its nitrous oxide-like acceleration though. The ‘spark’ that blazes from ship when you boost actually destroys enemies! Therefore, if you say, use it to escape an enemy above you by boosting straight downward, the spark will appear above you, taking out that enemy in the process (be careful with this though, as the spark's range is limited). The technique is very useful and will no doubt impress your shooter friends.
The O.V.D. weapon is your Vulcan cannon amplified into a beam that you can unleash for a limited amount of time. It utilizes the same charge meter as the Boost, so overdoing either one of these skills will drain the meter, and your ship will shudder as it reaches its threshold and commences recharging. Not surprisingly, the pair come in handy versus the bosses. As the Einhander-ish boss mechs release their plethora of projectiles, you can boost your way out of harm's way and respond, lashing out with the O.V.D. at their targeted weak point.
The game even offers a practice mode with a series of sessions that allow you to try out these skills. Should you complete the sessions and save your game, Space Shot will remember the ones you've finished the next time you load. It should be noted that some of the sessions are very difficult—such as dodging bullets and enemies for a predetermined stretch without shooting—so that saving your exploits is another satisfier.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty much a downhill slide from here on in. None of the game’s five levels (too short!) require the adept use of any of these aforementioned skills. Possessing only limited skill with the Vulcan alone will still have blasting your way through to the end within a day, perhaps even on your first try. All this with little trouble and little sweat produced. The ease of play makes the game feel like a disposable title, because all of the functions that have been included are made to seem like unnecessary fluff. At least if Space Shot looked and sounded good, the lack of challenge might be overlooked, as is the case with Thunder Force III, for example. That’s not the case here.
The in-game graphics are below average. The characters look decent, and are coloured competently. But the backgrounds suffer to the extreme. The skies are done well enough, but feature no parallax scrolling or cloud movement to provide much needed depth. The landscapes are jagged and look poorly pasted in front of the skies, and they present the weakest graphic link (witness the first level mountain range). On the plus side, the rotating polygonal environments—in level three in particular—are very nice. But it’s not enough. Really, the word 'basic' describes this shooter better than any other; there are no parts that you’ll remember, outside of those rotating parts in level three and five, and the last boss, who looks to be a shiny black relative of Thunder Force V’s end of game guardian.
Space Shot’s score is decent, featuring some surprisingly good—if a little muffled—rock music tracks, but you won’t remember any of the tracks when the Playstation is off. And while the sound of your weapon impacting with enemies leaves much to be desired, the explosions that ensue when you dismember any one of the end bosses, both looks and sounds spectacular.
The weird cut scenes, and the creative gameplay features, demonstrate that much effort was put into making this game, but the former ends up only providing unintended kitsch value, while the latter is wasted due to the very basic, undemanding gameplay. However, due to the lack of shooters available for the Playstation, and the low price of this title, it still deserves a marginal recommendation.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)
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