A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! Review—Now That Was Worth 2 Bucks!

aspaceshootertitle

Frima Studio has been on board the Minis program since launch, and the one thing that has always stood out in their titles has been their excellent production values. This, A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks!, is no exception, and what’s more amazing, they deliver it for a very low price, only $1.99.

What kind of production values can a space shooter Mini have? Well, it’s got a surprisingly large amount of dialogue, all fully voiced. But even if it didn’t have that, it would still be a great game at even thrice the price. It more than compares to Who’s That Flying?! and The Flying Hamster in terms of depth, and most importantly, it’s just plain fun.

SpaceShooter1

You control the USS Eradicator, which is captained by Commander P. Jefferson. It’s very much the more modern sort of shooter, where bullets fly everywhere. Unlike most of the shooters that have appeared in the Minis program so far, it’s a vertical shooter—the background scrolls slowly downward, and you can move your ship all over the screen, though you always face up. Enemies appear from the top or at the sides.

Some of them attack in formation, while others appear solo. There are several different types. Most just shoot at you—little bullets at first, then later on larger ones, and even continuous beams. Some try to run into you. Eventually you run into asteroids, which you simply must smash or avoid.

The controls are pretty simple; you use the analog nub or D-pad to move the ship around, and the X button is to fire. If you hold down the button it will auto-fire, but the rate is generally slower than you can achieve by button mashing. Generally, as when you pick up a “Haste” power-up, holding down the X button fires much more quickly than you can tap it.

Using the Black Hole Cannon special weapon

Using the Black Hole Cannon special weapon

Firing of special weapons is mapped to the Square button. You cycle through these by using the shoulder buttons. It works pretty well, except sometimes I can’t remember which one is which, since they are just color-coded by the energy bar displayed. Most are easy to remember, but I always get the Hellfire Beam (orange) and Defense Ships (sort of a reddish purple) mixed up.

Part of progressing through the game is simply learning how to play it better, but upgrading your ship is perhaps the most vital factor to success in the game. Figuring out the attack pattern of bosses is still important, but on a couple of occasions I was able to simply blast my way through them.

Non-story boss fight

Non-story boss fight

In the Campaign Mode, which is the heart of the game, you are given a map of space. You pick which sector or level you want to go to—some are just aliens, while others have named bosses. Each is rated by difficulty.

As you progress through the level and blast enemies, they drop “remnants” which you collect with your ship, which turn into money based on the color. After the level is over, you can visit the weapons shop to upgrade your ship by purchasing items, but for simply completing a level once, you either get an improved hull (for the non-story boss sectors) capable of taking more hits or a special weapon (which the boss used against you).

If you need more money to buy an upgrade, you can go back and redo a level. The upgrades are fairly simple: how many bullets your main cannon simultaneously fires, improving the power-ups you collect in a level, improving and reducing costs of using a certain boss weapon, and improving how your ship picks up remnants.

The first boss, who is quite tough in a non-upgraded ship

The first boss, who is quite tough in a non-upgraded ship

The free-form nature of Campaign Mode is an excellent idea, as it puts the player in control of the game and even adds something of an RPG element. While it does perhaps pad the length of the game by having you repeat levels to earn the money to buy upgrades, because the game is fun, you don’t really mind doing so (this is actually pointed out in-game in a cutscene). And if you are good, you can perhaps do later stages without upgrading your ship as much.

Still, on the downside, I think it does make the difficulty curve as steep as climbing a cliff. When you first start off, the game is the most difficult, as you only have one bullet per shot, you don’t attract remnants automatically, and you can take very few hits. Again, it reminds me of an RPG, where sometimes you lose your first encounter to rats (or something similarly wimpy [ed.—goofy, smiling slimes!]).

Once you upgrade your cannon to three bullets per shot, two of which are at an angle, the game becomes much, much easier, as you can now attack bosses without being underneath them. And from then on, the game is pretty easy until the final boss fight, especially as you upgrade your cannon more and more.

Shot from the opening cutscene

Shot from the opening cutscene

Besides the Campaign, there is Survival Mode. There you basically play until you get killed. It uses your ship from Campaign Mode, so again, it’s much easier once it’s been upgraded. It keeps the high score, but there is no high score table beyond that, though there are three separate save game profiles. Across both of the modes, there is a wide array of achievements to earn. There doesn’t seem to be anything unlockable except a fourth difficulty level.

While the gameplay itself makes this title top notch, the production values take it to a whole different level. The fully voiced cutscenes really bring the character of Commander Jefferson to life. He is very much an alpha male, despite looking like a combination of the stereotypical D&D player and sports talk radio host.

Commander P. Jefferson

Commander P. Jefferson

He hate aliens and loves killing them. He lets you know this not just in the cutscenes but chimes in constantly while you are playing. Some of the things he says seem random, but others seem tied to what you do. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Eric Cartman of South Park—you’ll cringe at some of the things he says, but at the same time, you’ll silently agree with a lot of it. Or maybe that’s just me.

Voice acting can actually be a bad thing if it’s done poorly. But it’s actually done pretty well here, at least in the case of the main character and his ship’s computer. And there is such a variety of sayings during gameplay that it doesn’t really get old (though sometimes he does immediately repeat himself).

Your ship's AI, Edgar IV

Your ship's AI, Edgar IV

Unfortunately, the game suffers from a nasty bug on the PSP. Sometimes, when you finish a level, the PSP will freeze for a few seconds and then shut off. Or after finishing the level, the PSP doesn’t freeze, but the progress just doesn’t count. This bug seems to be tied to using the sleep mode of the PSP.

While I can understand how such a bug could be missed in a development environment, sleep mode is probably my favorite part of the PSP, so it’s kind of a big deal. I am confident this will be fixed as soon as possible, and quite honestly, much like having to redo levels for money, I don’t mind so much having to redo levels because the gameplay is so fun. It is a little annoying for boss fights, though.

A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! is a great example of how a name can be both completely accurate and misleading. Yes, it is a space shooter, and it’s only two bucks. But it’s more than just a space shooter. It’s far and away the best Mini yet. It’s going to be a tough act to follow, though, as Frima has raised the bar in terms of bang for your two bucks.

10/10

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Comments

31 Responses to “A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! Review—Now That Was Worth 2 Bucks!”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    “It works pretty well, except sometimes I can’t remember which one is which, since they are just color-coded by the energy bar displayed.”

    I noted that the game’s pause screen shows your collected special weapons with both name and colored energy meter, and it also lets you choose it from there. So, that’s a good way to know which is which, and it also makes the weapon switch happen more quickly, as far as in-game time is concerned.

  2. confuletlyf says:

    by and far the most impressive mini so far. I actually have to debate between this and GoW:Ghost of Sparta each time I load up my psp.

    I do all my grinding for cash in survival mode. It does save your cash and is much more effective than repeating levels. I haven’t had my psp crash from this and was very impressed how quickly the dev team acknowledged and even pin pointed the bug, I too use the sleep function frequently to save battery life, and when that is fixed whole heartedly suggest this game deserves a mythic 11/10, as all futue minis should aspire to this level of quality at such an absurd price.

    Frima, you deffinitely could have sold this mini at the $5 + price point, but am very impressed by your lead and hope that other devs see your success in numbers sold over price per unit.

  3. djax says:

    No highscore table :-(

  4. JeremyR says:

    I knew you’d say that

  5. MickD says:

    @djax

    I saw you ask this question and request for this feature in a lot of post too!
    The game as a higscore in survival, and I wanted to ask, do gamer really “want” a highscore table? Is your second best score important to keep track of? Why would a highscore table be important? Some question I would answer too as a developer!

    @JeremyR and confuletlyf

    Thanks for all the wonderful comments! 10/10 ! Yay!

  6. thumbbandit says:

    I’d just like to say congrats to everyone at Frima. :D

    I should also mention the first time I encountered the bug (I think I was the first to report it actualy) I didn’t use sleep mode…sorry to keep banging on about this, but I don’t want a fix if it doesn’t actualy fix the issue. :(

  7. goob says:

    Yes great job Frima! they might have pushed some newer minis to be lower priced to compete with this one!

  8. sp3c says:

    don’t care about highscores personally

    it’s not like there’s a whole lot of players playing on my psp (people have to rob my grave toget their hands on it) so every highscore in there will be mine anyway

  9. sp3c says:

    just the highest score is important because that’s what I want to beat ;)

  10. Bonymini says:

    I’m also very impressed with this mini, agreed 10/10!

  11. onmode-ky says:

    “people have to rob my grave toget their hands on it”

    Wait, so sp3c, you are dead? You did go through with that threat? :P

  12. Balrog says:

    @onmode-ky
    And unfortunatetly for him he can’t go into sleep mode so his battery power is going to run out that much sooner. ;)

  13. sp3c says:

    I’m not sure what happened, all I know is that a space shooter for 2 bucks is awesome

    look for me in the next zombie tycoon game

  14. onmode-ky says:

    A note of caution to hard-core shooting game fans: the player ship in this game has a minute amount of inertia. Your precision bullet-grazing and dodging skills from other scrolling shooters will not directly carry over into this game.

  15. volcane says:

    I think this is a staggering good game – well worth the review score! I’m enjoying it immensely, despite the sleep mode bug and the end-level-freeze bug (both of which I’ve experienced quite a few times).

    It took some time to get used to the ship inertia and the less precise movement, but I’ve gotten the hang of it now. It’s definitely less precise for movement but the health system compensates by being fairly tolerant of mishaps (I’ve never been very good at precision flying anyway! ;-)

    I’ve bought nearly all upgrades by grinding in survival mode and I’m on the final level in campaign mode.

    Regarding high scores I agree with sp3c – personally I’m only interested in seeing the current high score. I’m not fussed about my previous scores. I don’t share my PSP with anyone else and the only person I generally compete against is myself! :-)

  16. AG Awesome says:

    Just a suggestion but when the update comes out can you let us all know. I purchased the game but half the mini’s that get updated dont even have announcements (like the dinosaur hunter game, still dont know if that was updated or not). Not to mention they almost always need to be redownloaded rather than just choosing “update” from the triangle menu…

    Great review!

  17. sp3c says:

    Í think that has to do with the mini’s format itself, you allways have to redownload an updated title … same way an updated mini has to go through the same hassle to get it published on PSN as the original, that’s why nobody does it

    I haven’t had any problems with the bugs from the moment they figured out what caused it anyways but for downloaders that don’t come here it probably still sucks ass

  18. AG Awesome says:

    So to avoid the bug would you suggest just quitting out of the game when you are done a session, rather than putting the system in sleep mode?

  19. James says:

    You don’t have to re-download minis when they are updated.
    On the PSP, press triangle and click update.
    On the PS3 (if it’s playable on PS3, which most are), just start the game and it will automatically check for updates.

  20. james says:

    I was very skeptical about this title, but after this glowing review im getting it asap!

  21. icurafu says:

    I brought this game because of the good reviews, but haven’t touched it after the first 15 minutes. The game is great, but the gameplay is completely ruined (imho) by the loose controls. Anyone who has been playing these type of games for decades will probably be disappointed.

  22. MaxiM says:

    I bought this game because I had that exact amount of funding on my PSN account and I was looking for another mini SHMUP to compliment SKY FORCE. This game looks interesting and all, but yeah, the controls are horribad and I’m surprised that reviewers keep avoiding that information for some reason. Those controls are really “floaty”, hence the game lacks the precision that even Galaxian had back in the day. Sometimes they really piss me off. It’s a shame really. SKY FORCE wins this round hands down (including High Score table).

  23. JeremyR says:

    Well to be honest, I actually liked the controls, the ship feels like it has a bit of weight (or mass, rather) to it. Things shouldn’t turn on a dime, that’s unnatural.

    It’s not so noticeable in a game where the ship moves very slowly, but the ship in this is pretty quick…

  24. onmode-ky says:

    Isn’t it also unnatural that Mario can change direction while jumping? :)

    It takes nearly a full second for the ship in this game to reverse direction. That means you can’t make “double lane change” maneuvers like you would normally do in a scrolling shooter to evade swarms of bullets. In this game, you’re instead expected to simply take the hits and manage your armor/shields well enough not to die (and if you do die, you level-grind to increase your hull armor strength). That is, you just stay away from swarms of bullets as much as you can, instead of deftly weaving in and out.

    It’s a different school of design, one that does not cater to the hard-core scrolling shooter fan.

  25. bnaughty says:

    yeah 2bucks and a TAX.

  26. Ofaliss says:

    @bnaughty

    Not if you buy it from Amazon.

  27. b00k3 says:

    I couldn’t stand this game. I got it for free. I got what I paid for. I don’t often delete a game — I have plenty of space. This one I did.

    I always wondered why most shooters are so weak on story and background. This game is a good reason why. This game could’ve been an E-rated shmup. Instead, they took it to T because of the cut scenes. Ridiculous. They add nothing, and they do not make up for the gameplay.

    The gameplay was nothing to write home about. No substance here, that I could see. Least favorite mini so far… and I’ve played some lousy minis.

    My two cents.

  28. JeremyR says:

    Heh, I think we found the kid who was beaten up in the Intro…

    But to those that were bothered by the inertia, in the updated version you can turn it off with a cheat code – see the forums for details.

  29. dm says:

    This is one of the best minis ever released for pure awesome gameplay.

    I agree that the cutscenes and the writing/voice acting leave a lot to be desired, but that can all be skipped. The game itself plays great, looks great, and sounds decent. Very great pick up and play and AWESOME price point.

    Good job Frima. I bought another one of your games after being so pleased with this one.

  30. jokatech19 says:

    love this game to death. those flaming it need to be shot and killed. perfect 10

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