The Xbox Live Indie game program is a great way for independent developers to get their works into the eyes and hands of other people. Its also a great way for Sorcery Games to present to you their shooter game entitled ‘A Shooter’. Robert Toone, the creator, watched people exert hours of effort with bullet hell shooters and twin stick shooters, but find the challenge too difficult. Unlike Toone, who spent the 80s playing and developing shootemups, players around Robert that were new to the genre were struggling and giving up on the games.
Simply put, A Shooter is a side scrolling arcade game that presents a challenge in the form of increasingly difficult levels while freeing you from the need to carry a pocket full of quarters. The style is easy to grasp; move your ship around, shoot the aliens on the screen in front of your ship, collect extra points and power-ups. The left analog stick controls all your movements and the designated button (your choice of two) fires automatically when held down. Of course, it’s easy to forget that the buttons can be rapidly pressed for faster shots, but you might want to save your thumb dexterity for the bosses. Each level follows the same basic principal, though each has it’s own uniqueness. You’ll start the level, shoot some enemies, be presented with a purple asteroid that has a power-up trapped inside, shoot more enemies and then finally confront the boss. The rewards of success are refilling your bombs, gaining perhaps a new type of bomb, and then of course, moving on to the next level.
As I said, the levels offer their own uniqueness and this is found in the aliens that you have to shoot. Each level will offer an enemy with a different style of fight and flight than you previously encountered. So some are able to shoot more than just straight ahead and some are able to move more than that as well. This translates down to the bosses as well, perhaps becoming an elaborate memory game stacking the previous bosses skills into the mix as well. This is how I feel Toone has achieve his goal of trying to suck the player into going back and starting over when dying. It works too, I first spent a bit of my time stuck on level 1, then grasping the basic, completed level 2. Each time I progress and died, I felt as though I could remember how I did it and urged myself to continue back through the levels in the hopes of getting one more level ahead of myself than I previously accomplished.
Another point of uniqueness for this game are the bombs. In most games, a bomb would destroy all the enemies on the screen giving you a brief respite from the assault. In A Shooter, the bombs do not follow standard suite. Instead, the bomb ‘deflects’ all enemy fire and stops them from firing more shots for a brief, but helpful, amount of time. Picking up a special bomb from a downed boss can give you something even better than that though. The apple bomb will turn all enemy fire currently on your screen into apples for you to collect for bonus points. Be wary though as you should value your life more than you do points. Simply put, there is not much health available to you per level. Robert believe that people should be taught how to play a shooter and how to dodge, not to just take the least amount of damage possible.
The game even has local cooperative play if you feel that the challenge of the game is something you want to share. The game will balance itself though, so as to not make it ridiculously easy for you to complete. You can also compete against the high score tables, not just locally but across Xbox Live as well. In fact, there were special prizes during the first few weeks of release for this game. However, I have not posted this quite in time for this information to be relevant. Sorcery Games had a competition going to see who could be the first to complete the game and other various tasks. The competition is now over, but Sorcery Games state that they will continue to have more competitions as the titles progresses in age. You’ll have to keep an eye on their competition page to see when they crop up.
All in all, this is a great independently made game for Xbox Live Arcade. Simply put, your cash goes far in this game and that is something that not all reviewers like to talk about. For 80 MSP this game is a steal. It has simple, but nice graphics that do not distract from gameplay. The gameplay itself airs about with a quality of excellence that leaves you wanting more. Maybe someday there will be more as a sequel is said to be in development, as long as the first does well of course. So check out A Shooter and see if you’d like to get your game on with this one.