Title: Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo
Developer: Bare Knuckle Development Limited
Publisher: Bare Knuckle Development Limited
Genre: Shooter, Action, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: PEGI 3
Release Date: 14/01/2020
Price: £3.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
That’s right, it really is named Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo. So, SMSBST? SMSB? That will have to do; honestly, my brain can’t process the full title more than thrice.
SMSB(ST) is a single-screen arcade-style shoot ‘em up with co-operative play, versus multiplayer and a generous portion of ships and upgradable and weapons. Visually you’ve seen all you need to see within a minute of diving in but that’s the point. It’s a low-cost game with a modest goal; evoke a retro feel with that hi-score arcade-cabinet-age game design philosophy.
Hyper Ultra Giga Uber Pew Pew Turbo feat. Dante from the Devil May Cry Series & Knuckles
For a game that has the technical prowess of your average playable loading screen, SMSB is an absolute blast with a really smooth set of controls, bolstered by the huge variance in ship handling. Of course, the variety only goes so far and is relative to this small-scale project, but each round of one of the five modes gives an opportunity to earn coins to spend on upgrades and new ships to mix it up.
Your repertoire consists of boost and brakes allowing you to adjust your speed (remember to be careful, you wouldn’t want to overheat your tiny little engine). And FIRE! I mean, a shoot button. Hold for a slow, steady fire rate or tap as fast as a skinny wrestler in a headlock for rapid fire.
Weapon names are as on-the-nose as they come; bounce shot, multi-shot, big shot. Each does what it says on the tin.
Stick it to the Space Man
On to the modes. Protect Mother: stop your mothership biting the space dust; Survival: c’mon now; Save The Colony: collect astronauts from the hellish nightmare of floating through space… lonely… alone… desperate… sorry, got distracted there; One Shot: local two-player dog fight beginning with a single bullet; To The Death: the other local competitive mode in which you’re out to sink your buddy/enemy’s mothership or space blaster. Because you like to see them suffer. Alright, if you want to be all friendly, treat yourself to some lovey-dovey co-operative hand-holding in one of the other modes (my preference, by the way). Each mode has you dodging and blasting asteroids and missiles from all angles and it’s jolly good fun.
Like a sane person in a gym, SMSB never overdoes it. Its simplicity is balanced; never easy but always keeping you on your toes. There’s a glimpse of twin-stick shooting action in the form of a couple of power-ups and ships that add an analogue sibling to gun show but weapons such as the laser or the multi-shot are as straight forward as they come. Despite the power-ups being exactly what you’d expect (a big bomb that clears the screen, homing missiles that, well, home in), there’s plenty to mess around with.
Surviving long enough to see the bullet hell of a full screen is massively overwhelming and finding your way through the haze to grab that last survivor, or that extra gold coin before you accidentally pick up a bog standard weapon (removing that beautiful laser you were relying on mere moments ago) is both exhilarating and challenging in equal measure. Keeping track of ammo and fuel stock was the last thing on my mind… until I ran out. Obviously. There’s a fun balance at play and it’s a sign of a good development cycle and a game refined through feedback and testing.
In space, no one can hear… well, anything
The music is intoxicatingly catchy but unfortunately, the tracklist is way too short and SMSB suffers from auditory burnout, quickly succumbing to repetition. It’s a shame as one of the track’s hooks sounds kind of like a version of the Offspring’s Dammit, I Changed Again mixed with a Lemming’s track, played through a Mega Drive sound chip. You can unlock another track using the same method used to unlock weapon upgrades but it’s still a shame that there weren’t a couple more.
Perhaps that’s a touch harsh though given this is a bitesize game at a nominal price. There are some quirky extras like the selection of robotic voices to choose from (including one named Sakura, speaking Japanese, so no reason to change that ever again) and rewards for completing tasks, set out like achievements. Online leaderboards round off the features.
With all those little checkboxes and tasks to beat it can seem like there’s plenty to keep you going but, all considered, this isn’t the type of game you’ll want to buy for the single-player unless you go in knowing that SMSB is best played in very short bursts. I mean c’mon, you wouldn’t spend all day at an arcade machine, would you? Would you? Alright, you might.