Tag Archives: genericy

REVIEW: Space Battle

Both from a visual and a purely mechanical standpoint, there’s nothing new to see in the bland-sounding Space Battle1 ($1.00); it’s an amalgam of every twin-stick shooter set in space that you’ve ever played2. And not necessarily the good parts of said shooters either. Developer Chris Antoni’s take on the genre feels more ‘me too’-ish than anything else, and the dour, spartan backgrounds do little to help matters. On the surface, it’s entirely predictable.

Space Battle - Screen

The offline action takes place over sixteen challenging— albeit same-y— solo levels. The initial stages one-up themselves, adding a new enemy type until eventually you’re fighting off hordes of every type. It gets hectic. Unfortunately, it never feels all that thrilling. You get the standard ship upgrades, granting you additional shots or boosting your movement. You get a powerup that freezes enemies in place. And that’s about it. Even the overused, gimmicky, ‘bullet time’-esque slowdown that occasionally triggers when you’re near enemies or dodging laser fire can be more trouble than it’s worth, suddenly disorienting you and limiting your view.

Still, the game’s ‘Online War’ mode offers up a few interesting wrinkles to try and offset the rest of the otherwise familiar package. Rather than make things just a one-on-one duel, Space Battle mixes together parts of RPG-style progress grinding and card deck building, letting you put together an armada of ships (culled from the game’s single-player enemies) and purchase additional card slots and upgrades with currency earned through winning fights. The game allows you to tweak said loudouts beforehand, then sets you loose in a galaxy hub screen and offers up to 31 players online3 to match decks with and battle against.

Space Battle - Screen2

In theory, this should make for exciting combinations and battles, but your options are limited to a handful of choices and upgrades. Essentially, it boils down to picking the upper tier cards (earned randomly from wins) and maxing out your own ship’s stats. Building an impressive deck is slow, too. The cost to buy additional slots is high, making the process more of a grind than it needs to be, and with hardly anyone around playing XBLIGs online (a side effect of a dying scene), you’ll have to make do with the A.I. more often than not.

All in all, though, it just feels like a retread of past twin-stick shooters. And that’s not the vibe you want your game to be saddled with. Despite the interesting idea behind the online play (an idea you likely won’t get to appreciate in its intended form), Space Battle looks and plays too generic everywhere else to hold your interest for long.

  1. Seriously, Chris, I enjoy your games, buddy, but you’ve got to think of a better title than Space Battle for the next one. Literally anything would be better. Eyeballs in Space, maybe, or Chuck’s Fantastic Space Adventure. I mean, I don’t know what somebody named Chuck has to do with it, but you get the idea. Something else
  2. And if you’ve played a decent amount of XBLIGs over the years, you know that ‘twin-stick shooter set in space’ is a rather common idea amongst indie developers. I guess it’s a rite of passage. 
  3. Wishful thinking. I never found a single soul to do battle against. 

REVIEW: Zippy Push Kid

When you’re lording over the power of magnetics, you need to name yourself something with a little no-nonsense snap to it. Contemporary, a bit dangerous, even. It may not advertise his skills directly, yet Zippy Push Kid (80 MSP) fits the bill. It’s got layers. He’s sounds like a good guy already, not settling for the cheap or obvious like Magnet Man (sorry, Capcom). Too bad his gamesake doesn’t give him much time to attract an audience (you see what I did there, with ‘attract’? Clever, right?).

Zippy Push Kid - Screen

Human or Magnet, you make a  >_<  face, that’s gotta hurt.

Not that ‘attraction’ is the objective. Zippy may be a literal magnet, trying to escape from a cyborg test lab as magnets are wont to do, but he’s not trying to form any attachments (yeah, I’m doing it again) along the way. And I mean zero. Everything in the game, from movement to combat, is based on using his inherent abilities to do the complete opposite, to push or repel attackers and boost to perform jumps. Seems counterproductive for being a magnet, but I’ll bite.

The idea is implemented well, too, sort of like ‘being a jetpack’, with a meter that depletes and refills quickly, giving you just enough juice so that you won‘t go around zapping everything or zooming through with impunity. Most enemies can be pushed backwards or thrown into spike pits in this way, and you can always propel yourself upwards and bop them, Mario-style. The steering takes a little practice, but you’ll be getting around quite easily quite quickly.

Progress within the stages is periodically halted by gates, requiring you to ‘push’ various shapes towards keyholes. It’s not as precise or simple as grab & carry, though it’s an interesting use of your powers. Sadly, no upgrades or ideas are introduced beyond that, save for a ‘wall kick’ repel move that’s never utilized outside of one collectible situation, which changes your magnet shots from aqua blue to green for the duration of the stage for some inexplicable reason.

Zippy Push Kid - Screen2

‘Magnetic rays’ or pissing contest? You decide.

A few snags prevent the game from ever really taking off. Despite the occasional trouble in magnet-pushing myself around and over gaps, Zippy Push Kid is very low-impact platforming. The enemies and hazards are spread out, for the most part, with plenty of health refills in between. In fact, I had to go back into the game after completing it just to die and confirm that checkpoints do exist. And with five levels (including one apiece for a tutorial and end boss), all of which run under five minutes in length, the game is extremely short and pedestrian. There’s just not much going on. More should have been done with the mechanics / design to make better use of the magnetism (or anti-magnetism, as it were).

That doesn’t make Zippy Push Kid a bad game, just a shallow experience with nothing to cling to, that’s over before it’s done anything interesting. That genericy may play to the strengths of an era with short attention spans, but an even worse fate is not doing enough to stick in gamers’ minds. Cool name, though, bro.