Video Game Review: A Space Shooter For Two Bucks

A while back, we reviewed a PS Mini called Young Thor by Quebec-based developer Frima Studio. Well, Frima is back with their latest PS Mini which may just change the way that people look at the PS Mini genre with a fun, arcade-inspired game whose name is also serves as a summary of the game. It’s A Space Shooter For Two Bucks.

You know what this game reminds me of? It’s like the old top-down flying games where you fly a fighter jet against an army of opposing forces. My dad compared this to Galaxians but I think that isn’t quite accurate since Galaxians is a bit more Space Invader-esque. There definitely is inspiration from Galaxians, though, as your character is hellbent on destroying all aliens.

There are two modes in this game. There’s the campaign mode which sees you go from level to level blowing up aliens and the occasional boss. The other is survival mode which is your standard arcade unit mode where you blow shit up until you get blown up yourself. These are supplemented with an upgrade system where you buy new weapons or upgrade the power-ups dropped by enemies.

The Campaign mode is the main part of the game. It has some story that wraps together the levels and even the upgrade store. There are 16 levels divided into two areas of 8 levels each. Each area has three levels with bosses who you defeat to get their special weapon and cinematics with voiceovers at the start and end of the level. The remaining give in the area are straight blow up aliens levels with the reward at the end being an upgrade to your ship’s ability to take damage. It’s important to note that the campaign mode is non-linear which is good because I couldn’t beat a boss on my first go. Getting upgrades from the non-boss levels and earning points to buy upgrades through the survival mode are key to advancing the game’s main story.

Survival mode is like dropping a quarter into an arcade cabinet. You keep going until the aliens blow you up. The frustrating part about this is that sometimes your survival seems entirely dependent on which power-ups you get when. There are incentives to going through survival mode. Points earned in it can be used in the campaign mode upgrade store. You can also earn achievements (trophies, if you’d prefer) depending how many points you accumulate and how long you last. There are also achievements in the campaign mode depending on how well you perform in beating levels which provides some replay value to the campaign mode.

As for the actual gameplay itself, it’s like any top-down vertical-scrolling shooter you’ve seen at the arcade. Enemies shoot at you, you dodge and shoot back. There are around a dozen different enemy types and six very different bosses for you to blow up. There are also about a dozen upgrades that enemies will drop to make alien shooting just a bit easier. There’s a lot of variety packed into an inexpensive little game and a genre where it seems that every arcade cabinet is the same thing.

Graphics And Sound
Like all PS Minis the graphics and sound are designed to be best experienced on a PSP rather than a PS3 which is what I reviewed this game on. The graphics seemed a bit blocky on the PS3 but I’ve read that the graphics look fine on a PSP. There’s nothing spectacular or mindblowing in this game. It looks pretty much like something you’d see in an arcade game in this genre. On the plus side, there wasn’t any drop in frame rate regardless of how busy the screen got which was a welcome improvement over Frima’s Young Thor which I reviewed last year.

The sound was probably the most surprising part of this game. You have static characters and cut scenes in a sort of comic book style but all are fully voiced. Everyone is voiced in a sort of tongue-in-cheek sort of way. However, the character line in the midst of space shooting action get repetitive quickly. Fair trade-off, I suppose. I wasn’t expecting voice acting for $2 anyway so any is a bonus. The voice acting isn’t on par with, say, Mass Effect but it’s a damn sight better than many $60 releases.

Final Thoughts
I don’t want to say that the key point to this game is the price but you can’t ignore the fact that this game only costs $2. To continue the arcade game comparison, $2 buys you eight plays on a standard arcade unit. Hell, I’m not even sure that you can play an arcade game for $0.25 anymore. If you play this game more than eight times or get more than a couple of hours of play out of it (which is fairly easy), then you definitely get your money’s worth out of this one. And this is one game where you will get your money’s worth.

Gameplay: 4/5
Graphics and Sound: 3.5/5
Value: 5/5
Overall: ★★★★¼ (of 5 stars)

A Space Shooter For Two Bucks is available for purchase through the PlayStation Store for $1.99. This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 but can also played on the PSP. Impressions of the game is likely to differ depending on which platform is played.


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