Sunday, March 7, 2010

Four Quarter Frenzy -- Shoot 1UP

I have a confession to make. I love shooters. Not the first-person or third-person variety but the ones with a spaceship and more bullet dodging than a 72-hour marathon of The Matrix trilogy. I love them so much that I feel like it's difficult to rate them properly. Luckily there have been some generic and/or horrible ones lately to rid me of this problem and, because of that, I feel like I'm able to sit down and look at a good old-fashioned shmup with little to no bias. That is, until Mommy's Best Games came along and put Shoot 1UP out. Now I'm a slobbering idiot that requires a very absorbent bib for the drool and something to wipe this stupid grin off my face.

Shoot 1UP is a fast-paced shoot em up in the style of Raiden and other such games but with its own little twist. Instead of manning one ship and earning extra lives, you control a small fleet of ships (up to thirty) all at the same time and can gain or lose ships. All of them move with the analog and can either expand their formation with the right trigger or bunch up with the left. Expanding them results in firing a huge laser beam and covers more of the field with firepower but also makes it easier to lose ships. You can also hold X down to move slower but have better control over your fleet whereas normal movement has a little lag between your first ship and each ship after. You can also hold off your fire for a less than half a second and charge up a shield that destroys bullets when you fire next. You'll need every trick you can gather if you want to keep a good portion of your ships alive because later levels and higher difficulties will result in you losing a lot of your fleet if you're not careful.

Shooters need tight controls and this one is no exception. Thankfully, the control of this game is spot-on and not once did I feel like I lost a ship due to the fault of the game. With only four buttons, two of them being triggers, the only thing that needed getting used to was holding X for slower movement. I wish there was an option for a single tap to activate or deactivate this but, when it comes down to it, a little practice will have this becoming a non-issue in no time.

The presentation of the game is straight up old school arcade done right and ridiculous. Goofy ship design, hordes of gigantic insects, and a level of scantily clad (read: nekkid and strategically covered) robot women that ends with a boss firing bullets from her chests (or, after a while, just firing her chests) just screams out memories of throwing quarters into a stand up machine. The music is the standard electronic fare that keeps with the theme of blood-pumping action. And it goes to note that, even with 20+ of my OWN ships on the screen firing their own bullets and an armada of enemy units doing the same thing and sometimes with a large boss taking up 3/4ths of the screen, I never saw an ounce of slowdown. However the team there did it, kudos.

I could go on forever about the depth and the extras of this game. With three difficulty levels and the ability to adjust the speed of the game you can have a shooter for, quite literally, everyone. Though a playthrough of the game is over in 20 minutes or less I can't imagine not wanting to press start and go for at least one more run. Score fanatics have plenty to shoot for as well with in-game awards based around your point totals and an absolutely genius scoring system where you have to collect points after your enemies die to get the full score for killing them and these points go up or down in value based on how wide your fleet is spread along with how many ships you have AND if you killed them with a normal shot or with the blast of your shield. Believe me, seeing an enemy drop 4 million points makes every risk worth it. Along with two player co-op (SIXTY SHIPS!), the ability to unlock a different ship, multiple paths in each level, 17 in-game awards to earn, and the Score Trek mode that has you going with a MUCH more difficult "one ship one life" theme, this is probably one of the best shooters I've played in recent memory. The only bad thing I can really say about it is that, aside from Score Trek (which is insane), the game is a little easy to run through even on the highest difficulty level. After getting used to the mechanics I didn't feel like I'd lose all my ships at any point in the game, even when I was brought back down to six ships on the final boss. Still, I haven't gotten all 30 ships on the screen at once even on the easiest level and I have a lot to work for in Score Trek mode, so I still have a motivation (and burning desire) to play this amazing game.

Even with the toned down difficulty, this is pretty close to indie gaming perfection. If this game was three or even five dollars I'd still say it's worth the money but, at a measly four quarters, I feel like I'm robbing them blind. If you like shmups, even a little, there's absolutely no reason to not buy this game.

Shoot 1UP is available on XBox Live for 80 MS Points. Beat each difficulty level, played through a few frustratingly difficult levels of Score Trek, and did three playthroughs of the game in one sitting because I didn't want to stop playing. Also, having a woman shoot her love pillows at me may very well turn me gay. Just sayin'.

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