That Pester (80 MSP) is a arcade shooter with Bullet Hell-tendencies should be fairly obvious; screenshots depict an old-school style in a locked vertical column with some decidedly-merciless bullet patterns, and that name certainly ain’t designed to make any quick friends.
As a shooter, all of the necessary boxes are checked off, though the majority of Pester‘s replay value stands behind a bounty of options, modifiers, challenges, and multipliers (for a possible combination of 95+ different setups). Almost all of these are locked at the outset, and the requirement for their freedom is reaching a high score plateau within the individual modes. This is all easier said than done, naturally, with the perpetual carrot-on-a-stick being that you’ll get incrementally better the more you play and triumph over evil, or something along those lines.
The game eschews stage progression and bathroom breaks, giving you one contiguous level (enemy waves, boss, enemy waves, boss, etc.) under two mainline game types. Arcade Mode is ‘shooter’ bread & butter, the most familiar— three lives, speed and shot powerups, and screen-clearing bombs. Collect coins to fill your Hyper meter, allowing a short burst of heavy firepower. Tempus Mode does the same, but more immediate, with the addition of a countdown timer below your ship. Collect clocks to extend your time. Losing a life here takes away ten precious ticks. Reaching zero is of course game over.
From either top mode, you can then branch off into several sub-modes. Pester‘s charm comes in its lack of charm, in not letting you get comfortable. Just when you’ve adapted to one manner of play, unlocks or score requirements will push you to climb towards the next peak, from the standard shooter trappings to wall-to-wall boss fights, a stint as a pacifist (dodging asteroids without the benefit of lasers), or the outright ridiculous; the ‘Duo’ modifier hands over the controls to two ships at once using the two thumbsticks. Fancy yourself even more dexterous? Try it with the inputs reversed. Higher scores and multipliers await for the truly mad and gifted.
See any trouble? If you guessed ‘everywhere’, you’d be right.
In the minus column, the retro visuals may be nostalgic but they do come at a cost; both the coins and clocks you need to collect in their respective modes can be indistinguishable from enemy fire, which at times share a common color or shape and in the heat of the moment can lead to plenty of cheap deaths. The game modifiers are hit and miss as well. Ninety-five plus combinations, sure, but some of those combos are related to modifying the controls and / or inflating the difficulty, and as such are not likely to be used by most (sane) players.
It’s not as inventive as the studio’s previous shooter, Super Killer Hornet (Math problems while dodging fire, anyone?), though there’s little doubt that Pester takes its turn competently. There will be bullets and some pestering (sorry, couldn’t resist), but you’ll be able to stomach all of your dying given the fact that the game and its two top modes are a lot of fun to play, and offer up enough different settings in the sub-modes to outlast and justify the repeated run-throughs.