Tag Archives: Vertical Shooter

REVIEW: March to the Moon

March to the Moon (80 MSP) is an instant leaderboard game that you’d be crazy not to try if you’re a shooter enthusiast. Not that I’d ever demand you buy a game without a reason, so, alright, (cracks knuckles) here we go. March to the Moon is a vertical shooter where you’ll choose your brand of shooting from twelve (!) character classes like the guns blazing types (Hunting, Engineer), the support / cerebral roles  (Runes, Necromancer) or others that tread the line in-between.

You’ll take on waves of eclectic enemies, small at first, but soon filling the entire screen. And you’re doing this because you’re the hero that’s offered to clean out a basement full of rats, setting up a chain of events that will send you on a march to the moon (oh it’s possible), past alligators and goblins, to fight against farm animals (cows, pigs, and chickens) that have raised an army and displaced the resident moon aliens. So, yeah.

But once you get past the premise and basic art design, and level up some, you’ll gradually uncover the game’s brilliant, more RPG than RPG-like character crafting and customization. Each class has multiple abilities (easily over a hundred between them all) you can put upgrade points into, from standard fire to magic attacks to summoning minions, and passive traits that amplify other powers and yourself, or give bonuses against certain enemies.

Despite reusing art and the same four stage types, March to the Moon dodges repetition with the reward of incremental progress and incentives. It cleverly extends the length of the game (to 4-5 hours) by having the player hit a ‘reset’ at the end of each difficulty setting on the Moon, which adds new story elements and one-liners to the same levels, now with tougher and remixed enemies. With eight levels per ‘world’, of which there are four, or 32 stages per playthrough, for a total of 96, you won’t run out of things to shoot.

Which is good, as this ‘reset’ also expands your already-deep skill trees’ point limits, allowing you to grow in proportion to the new challenges. And really the whole progression aspect in MttM, from stages to skill growth to enemy balance, is handled perfectly, letting you evolve while slowly evolving itself into a serious bullet hell.

Even if the game becomes too difficult, you’re capable of solving the problem. You’re always only a ‘skill respec’ or XP Grind away from regaining the upper hand, save for your initial class selections, which are permanent. Don’t pick up two support classes with limited offensive powers, and you should be fine. Though given the different classes, creating multiple game saves to test out various combinations might not be a bad idea. With the sheer amount of options, I can’t see anyone having a bad experience with the game except by their own doing.

March to the Moon is quite literally everything I’ve ever wanted in a vertical-scrolling shooter, and even more I didn’t know I wanted. Combine the bizarre plot and enemies that continue as the difficulty levels scale comfortably, with the immediate ability to build (and rebuild at will) a character with whatever weapons, skills, and abilities you prefer, and you have a deeply-customizable, immensely-replayable RPG-shooter. Bottom line, buy it. It comes with the highest recommendation I can offer.

REVIEW: Overdriven

Shooters of any vein have typically been my bread & butter, so in watching the Dream.Build.Play trailer for Overdriven (80 MSP), I couldn’t help but take notice. It looked fantastic, for one, and all the not-too-picky elements I look for were present; one ship shooting a bunch of other ships in different and interesting ways. See, easy to please.

Overdriven takes on the vertical shmup across seven levels, using the shooter-standard ‘unknown alien invasion’ premise, ‘last human hope’ etc. etc for a setup. Sine Mora it is not. What Overdriven (the ship / pilot, not the title) does get is a pair of lovely ladies whispering sweet nothings into his / its ear, and by that I mean pertinent information about the current stage and twenty variations of ‘watch out!’.

The game’s big sell and namesake mechanic is a beam shot that slows your ship’s movement but makes for a stronger, concentrated fire. Health is also sacrificed while ‘overdriven’, dropping your ship to within an inch of its life. It creates a tense trade-off once the screen gets lively and comes in handy for the bigger baddies and end-level bosses.

In a twist, stages aren’t unlocked simply by beating the previous. Beyond the first three, you’ll have to find a set amount of ‘alien artifacts’ scattered around town or dropped by enemies (5 per stage) to earn the right to advance. I found (more like stumbled onto, all dumb luck-like) the majority the first time through, though there are some cleverly-hidden ones. For collectors, there’s plenty of said artifacts and oddities (hidden cows?) to find, set to excellent music throughout. Also seven level-specific challenges that play out like self-contained mingames, with Awardments to pin to your digital chest for bragging afterwards, do well to invite extra playtime after clearing the story.

Minor quirks abound. The game suffers from the same ‘bullet recognition’ problems as other shooters, with enemy fire hidden in your own leading to some cheap hits. The bosses don’t vary much (except in name) from stage to stage, and bits of the art recycle. In fact, Overdriven‘s only serious problem is its art, pretty as it is. Especially in darker stages and during a firefight, it becomes almost impossible to tell your foreground from background, leading to health-sucking grinds along barriers and / or deaths. Repeated runs through the level will commit these segments to memory, but it’s a mentionable annoyance that could be an issue for players on higher difficulties.

Otherwise, it’s reliable. The controls feel solid, shot patterns are tough but navigable, and it forgives almost as much as it forgets. Overdriven slips comfortably into its Bullet Hell suit, and posits a good challenge for both ends of the shooter skill set. It doesn’t do anything extraordinary with its shmup license, but it’s fast, fun, and assembled the right way. Competence is a compliment here.