Generally, it falls on your parents to prepare you for the world, but in the event they mollycoddled you (being the only son / daughter, the prettiest, whatever), allow me to state a few truths. Three things in life are guaranteed— Death, Taxes, and twin-stick shooters on Xbox Live Indie Games, set in space. It is absolutely no surprise then, that SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance (80 MSP) proclaims itself to be of that party, or that I am officially out of openings for twin-stickers.
Remarkably, there is an extended story, about CoNs destroying space-faring human settlements (‘Alien Race attacks Earth and its colonies’ for short), as well as some neat ‘on this day in history’ stuff that shows up on the front end menu like Mass Effect. This compliments an already lengthy codex detailing the characters and the backstory. No expense was spared in crafting the game world BSA takes place in.
The same can be said for your ships, which come with preset stats and special weapons (heal bots, turrets, mines) for varying tastes but are upgradeable with salvage collected during the missions, kept all to yourself or shared equally with your allies (co-op for up to four, locally).
There’s some larger set pieces (i.e. larger ships) and escort sequences, though the gameplay boils down to generator defense time and time again. Salvage is the ingredient throughout, collected and used to rebuild said generators, as well as for re-supply and the mentioned upgrades. Survival and Freeplay modes are worthy of a few plays, and repetition is less of a problem with friends, but a little more mission variety would have been appreciated.
This is compounded with the later campaigns, which throw more and more enemy ships your way as substitute. Solo, you’re upgrading between missions to stay ahead of the curve, but at times (when tasked to guard two or more generators spread across a level, let’s say) the game really wishes you were playing the four-player co-op. This tends to be a problem with the average XBLIGer, brought up in an era of ‘online everything’ and short the two or three additional controllers / friends.
Haven’t you guys ever heard the expression, ‘fair fight’?
By the middle missions of the Mars campaign and beyond, you’re vastly outgunned, leading to hopeless battles where there’s little chance of turning the tide as the lone gunman, or in the wrong class of ship (with its placeable turrets, the ‘Euphrates’ class is key). The AI should have allowed for all possibilities instead of a ‘catch-all’ solution in overwhelming odds that ends up feeling like punishment to single players. As such, the balancing isn’t what it should be. Friends are damn near required to get anywhere at some points.
It doesn’t negate the solid framework in saying it may not be the most gorgeous or original shooter, and with the wealth of options and content, you can’t argue the effort in SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance. The above problems, the ‘sameness’ to every mission, and the occasionally rough difficulty give me pause, though, to recommend you try before you buy.