Tuesday, 6 December 2011
I was going to review another game this week. I won't say which one, but it looked really cool and grabbed me as soon as I laid eyes on it. Then I spent three or four days of solid playing trying to actually have an opinion on it and I couldn't come up with anything. It's easy to decry something but I couldn't even manage that.
Out-Space, a single axis shooter for the Commodore 64 was my second choice and failed entirely to disappoint. The C64 scene really is shockingly dependable as far as producing good quality product is concerned and Jason Tinkler's shooter which premiered at the recent Replay Expo 2011 sticks with this tradition in supplying quirky, solid and addictive gameplay.
The Out-Space experience starts with a sweet, floaty, classically-influenced SID chiptune hovering over the title screen. At 'Game Over' it ends with a ragged, stompy bastard of a chiptune that sounds like Arnie is about to walk out of a time portal in your kitchen and turn your face into Vietnam. In between this there is lots of shooting of space stuff, and equal amounts of dying.
A single axis shooter has to pull a few tricks out of the sack to stand out from the legions of similar games that have gone before it. Out-Space brings some quirky attack waves to the party, not to mention a collection of visually pleasing sprites. The first level sees the player facing off against things that (to me anyway) look like Cthulhus with jetpacks, and soon after deadly moons, aimless space fish and other entries from the List of 101 Mad Things You Might Meet in Space fly into the fray, for the most part flying around the screen in surprising patterns, bypassing that whole scene of having the first level consist of a few waves of bad guys that form an orderly line to be atomised. And I’m sure that at one point the Madness Moons formed a question mark.
It has to be noted that this game was made over a period of two months. At least, the title screen says it was written over a two month period from October 1st. So assuming that was this year either I'm playing freeware from the future (which sounds like the title for a really crap public domain compilation circa 1994) or this game that I'm playing now is the product of only six to seven weeks of work (this review was typed in November), which makes it slightly more impressive. The gameplay is engrossing and the game plays through quickly enough so that it gets easier and easier to get up to that one level where you end up losing all of your lives and get humiliatingly killed without having to spend three weeks dodging level one baddies.
Switching to the 'insanity' difficulty level makes for a tougher experience, but insanity mode wasn't quite as mental as I expected - perhaps someone should start designing games with an 'unplayable' mode to satisfy masochistic video games bloggers!
Out-Space does the trick and does it with style and a sense of humour. It's a twitchy, slightly kinked shooter that proves that retro homebrew games don't need to reinvent the wheel to be great quality products. As a two-month job it really does excel, and I can honestly say I'm looking forward to the sequel that the title screen promises, which based on the time it took for this game to go from inception to general release might well already be out, with a title screen that promises another sequel!
Download the game here (from the Commodore Scene Database).
Run it using VICE (free software).