A Shooter for the Rest of Us
With their Indie Games (at the time, Xbox LIVE Community) debut, Weapon of Choice, Mommy’s Best Games took the Contra formula, punched it up with some over-the-top mature content, added some interesting features, and dialed back the genre’s notoriously high difficulty. With Shoot 1UP, the developer hopes to do the exact same for the “shmups” we all grew up with. At a measly $1 asking price, this is almost a no-brainer for gamers who always liked arcade shooters but were never skillful enough to get very far in them.
Shoot 1UP uses a very interesting tactic to make the game less difficult. Rather than controlling a single ship, you control a whole armada of them at once. Using the shoulder buttons, you can make your ships fly closer together or farther apart. When you fly them far apart, you get more points, and the ships magically work together to fire a massive laser (the “plasma auger,” which is very useful on bigger enemies) in addition to their regular shots. When you get a power-up that creates a “mirror” of your armada on the other side of the screen, you can fill nearly the entire screen with your ships. On the flip side, this game has just enough “bullet hell” that flying far apart is risky; you have to keep track of too many ships to stop them all from getting hit.
1UP power-ups are scattered through all the levels and add ships to your collection. The more ships you add, the more powerful your weapons become, the more directions you shoot in, and the more hits you can take before your game ends. You can save ships by using your shields wisely (they charge when you stop shooting, and protect you when you tap the shoot button). Especially on the easier settings, it’s not hard to keep more than ten ships in your armada at a time, and it’s possible to top 30.
In addition, the game offers a wide range of difficulties. You can choose between three levels in the normal mode (the third even makes the game a bit longer), or play a one-ship mode that lets you save your progress and increases the difficulty every time you beat the game. You can also adjust the speed at which the game runs to get a hang of the levels (which, come to think of it, would be a great tool in just about every shmup ever made; why don’t they all include it?). Any player, at any skill level, can have a few hours’ worth of fun with this game.
Don’t expect a whole lot more than that, however. As you’d expect from the $1 price point, this is a very short game, even by arcade-shooter standards. It’s no problem at all to blast your way through the entire thing (just six levels in total) in a half-hour or so. There are a few reasons to play over and over again; in addition to the aforementioned difficulty settings, there are branching paths that lead to several different endings. You can also turn up the difficulty and play with a friend locally, or use a different type of ship (the differences are minor). Still, at the end of the day, this is a “play it a few times, get all the endings, and forget about it” kind of game, just like Weapon of Choice was.
As far as graphics go, fans of Weapon of Choice will feel instantly at home here. It has the same type of hand-drawn art style, with crazy explosions and smooth animations. Each of the six worlds features a different color scheme, with a good variety of enemies hurling firepower your way and spawning yet more enemies.
The bosses are huge and well-designed, with interesting attack patterns. We particularly enjoyed the two carousels with cannons attached. The sound doesn’t stand out quite as much as Weapon of Choice’s heavy-metal riffs did, but the catchy tracks do a good job of splitting the difference between the genre’s typical sounds and the crazy vibe Mommy’s Best likes to give off.
One last note. At the beginning of this review, we said that this was “almost” a no-brainer. It’s “almost” because some folks will find one of the levels pretty offensive. Naked women (though with no body parts exposed) pass by in the background, and the level’s boss is a giant lady whose spiky breasts attack you.
The developers are not bashful about this boss. She’s featured on the cover. Presumably, this is all intended to be a little tongue in cheek (it’s not misogynistic; it’s a statement about misogyny!), but that’s not as obvious as it is in, say, a Grand Theft Auto or Duke Nukem game. We’re not prudes, but we could understand parents and female gamers’ wanting to pass.
Again, save for that level, this is an obvious buy. In fact, this would be a good buy at five or so times the cost. For a dollar, Xbox 360 owners get a shoot-’em-up that’s actually beatable, presented in Mommy’s Best’s unique art style. The countless gamers who’ve always felt left out of the hype over games like R-Type and Ikaruga have been waiting for this for a long time.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
Hand-drawn artwork that will be instantly familiar to Weapon of Choice fans. 4.8 Control
No complaints here. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
It doesn’t stand out much, but it splits the difference between stereotypical shmup tunes and Mommy’s Best craziness. 4.4 Play Value
Bearing in mind that the game only costs $1, there’s a lot of content here. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.