A good zoomie shootie explodie pew pew space game that wants to be great. Doesn’t quite make it. But is still pretty damn good.
Page 20, Game 30: Space Mayhem by Chronic Vagrant
You have a spaceship. Your spaceship has a pew pew shootie laser. You know what to do.
Of course, you don’t just zoom around smashing rocks for long. Other ships start showing up. At first, they’re no big deal, just a bunch of pokey little dudes that will try to ram you. But there are more. Then more. Then more.
To help aid your battle, power-ups will regularly drift by for you to go pick up. These are divided into two categories: lasers, and things that wish they were as awesome as lasers. Seriously, having a laser is like strapping a light sabre to the nose of your ship. It’s fucking awesome.
This game is fun. It’s easy to get hung up on little things it does poorly or on opportunities it missed, because there are honestly a lot of those — and because I’m me, I’m about to go into those in more detail. But this is also one of those games where getting screenshots past the first few seconds was difficult because I didn’t want to stop what I was doing and compromise the run to get the damn screenshot. This definitely goes into the “Glad I Found It” bucket.
But it could have definitely been more.
The game defines a very tight battlespace; you have the dimensions of your screen and not a pixel further. Slam into the edge of the screen, loose health as though you’d been shot. This was a bad decision; this game is all about getting into an adrenalized murderous flow, about capturing the Thrill. Having to pull back from a killshot because you don’t want to run afoul of the borders impairs that flow. Why not make the screen wrap, like Asteroids? If you must have barriers, why not make them bouncy, like Omega Race?
The power-ups could benefit from some balancing and differentiation. The laser is, indeed, awesome, and I got a little battle boner every time I saw one floating across my screen. There’s also a flamethrower which works more or less the same way — you spray a short-range field of concentrated destruction, for which you’ll want to spin your ship and clip as many things as you can manage. Except, while the laser just blows shit up, the flamethrower only bestows a single hit, and if that’s not enough, catches the ship on fire so that it may take a bit of damage over time. It looks baller, but in terms of gameplay, the flamethrower is just the laser, but shittier.
Why does my gun overheat if I shoot it too many times in a row? This is another design choice that goes against the go-out-there-and-fuck-shit-up vibe of the game. If any game should be rewarding me for getting in there and blazing away, it’s this one. There are a couple of power-ups that are basically “My regular gun but it doesn’t overheat,” and those are the least exciting to get, because … it’s just my regular gun, but without the overheating. Meh.
Why does everything — everything — damage me in precise 25-point chunks? If my health is 100, I can take four hits. Wouldn’t it make more sense for my health to be “4” instead?
Why isn’t there more differentiation among the ships? Some enemies will drop coins, which give you cash you can use to unlock other available ships. I unlocked two ships, and honestly, they were pretty much the same game experience as the starter ship. One of them went faster, but that’s honestly a mixed blessing in this game, particularly as I have to spend a lot of my time not splattering myself on the borders. I would have liked a different main weapon, maybe. Or something that gets more mileage out of my power-ups. Or … just something that made me feel like the game was DIFFERENT now that I had this shiny new toy to play with.
Like I said, it’s easy to get lost in the “Minor error” weeds. None of these missteps wreck the game, but cumulatively, they do keep it from being as exciting as it could be.
The best comp I’ve encountered in this trawl is Cycle 28, which I loved. That game had a sense of escalation, stakes, and freestyle pixelship badassery that I feel like Space Mayhem is gunning for but doesn’t quite achieve. It feels restricted. I want Space Mayhem to be let off its chain and run ripshit rampage through the neighborhood.
But even so. It’s fun. It looks great, it sounds good, it’s just plain fun to play. If you’re a fan of arcade-style spaceship shoot-em-ups, I can definitely recommend playing it. I’m really glad this one crossed my path.
Is this next game going to have me rushing towards clusters of enemies so I can blow-up my awesome “Roundhouse” bomb right in their stupid enemy faces?
Page 59, Game 1: The Colors of Magic by Jon Lemich
“The Colors of Magic is a light, collaborative, story-focused, fantasy tabletop RPG about a group of wizard friends.”
Sounds like it will have a minimum of face-blasting. Which is totally fine.
Oh, and hey, it’s the last one! Not, you know, the last one I’m gonna do. (I don’t think? I’m not slamming out as many of these as I used to.) Just the very last game in the bundle. Nifty. Let’s see if it’s as good as the first one was.