So, I wrote a much more brief review on steam, but since this exists, here's more in detail what I thought about Starr Mazer DSP
First of all, wow, just holy crap is this game fun, beautiful, and has some great tunes. If you AT ALL like SHMUPs you owe it to yourself to get this game. It’s hard to qualify for me, because I’m actually not a big SHMUP guy myself, so making comparisons is going to be hard, my best example is it’s like a more fair version of R-Type with rogue like elements tossed in.
What I really enjoy is that the game does not overwhelm my brain like many SHMUPs do – that’s not to say there aren’t a lot of things to pay attention to, it’s just that nothing blindsides me out of nowhere. When I die it’s because I didn’t process the information fast enough – a real problem for me in real life, not just games. There’s as said, a lot going on – enemies are certainly plentiful and you need to avoid them and their shots, and you also want to pick up Carbomite, and more importantly want to guide the Carbomite into combining with itself – the bigger pieces of Carbomite you pick up are, the bigger your score is – and your score actually has a value here.
Score isn’t just for bragging rights, though that’s still there, your score is used to buy more pilots when your squadron crashes and burns. You start with, what I can best guess is a random selection of pilots, and when they inevitably die out (because random won’t get you too far – though I have made it to phase 2 of Act 1 before on just the startup), you then get to select new pilots for your squadron to re-tackle the act with. Every pilot is different with different stats and weapons (both regular and supers), and it’s really important to learn what these are – your success or failure will depend on your skill with these different types of attacks and skills (life – which means you can actually take a hit, Carbomite attraction which affects how well you can make Carbomite combine – super helpful for higher scores, and ship speed).
Finding out what combinations work for you adds a meta level of fun – I know personally I enjoy the Maser Blade for my regular weapon and Rupture Beam, Death Blossom and Infinite Salvo (which is ironic as I hated it during the beta I played as a backer of regular flavor Starr Mazer which isn’t out yet – but it got way better), as my supers of choice. What’s awesome here is that most of the pilots are procedurally generated – meaning there’s always new combinations that can occur. Moreover, there’s the trade off for new weapons – some weapons can only be obtained on a larger scale once you’ve unlocked it by selecting a pilot with it – usually an expensive decision that will pay off later.
As for the visuals, oh my heck these are fantastic – the attention to detail in the ships, blasts and backgrounds is amazing – and it retains the 90s arcade feel to it – something that might have gotten a port to the SNES or Genesis back in the day (though yeah this looks WAY BETTER than such a game would have – it just has that feel). The vivid colors work well off each other and I personally love the 80s cartoon/not quite but almost anime feel to it. As for the music, oh my heck Alex Mauer is a good amongst men when it comes to the amazing soundtrack that is both authentic feeling and all kinds of EPIC. I’ve had the game on pause listening to it while writing this down because it’s THAT GOOD.
Now, that I’ve gone and told you all the epicness in store for you in Starr Mazer DSP, and it IS epic – I would be remiss to not mention some of my issues. Now, as the game is still in early access these issues very well may resolve themselves over time – and NONE of them are game breaking. Just little things that, for me at least, would make the game better really.
My primary gripe is that, due to my own lack of skill in the genre, no matter how far within act 1 I personally get, when I wipe out I have to start it over. Now, this is entirely authentic to the experience the game is trying to convey – and it is definitely nice they have the acts set out separately on the menu (though act 2 is incomplete at the time I write this, and I haven’t even unlocked it yet), but for me at least – I just want to see what’s ahead of where I’ve been already, and due to the length of what I CAN get through, I generally don’t get to see new parts of act 1 as I tend to wipe out before I get to the part I’ve furthest been to. So, while I can repeatedly practice the earlier parts of the act, and have gotten pretty damn efficient to getting to phase 2 (The Crumbled Firmament – or as Cat Admiral says the Telchines Supercluster – which is just a cool name), I have only twice been to phase 3 (The Numbspa Gate), and I usually only have one pilot left at that point. As such, I have only ONCE been to what I think is the boss of it.
I really wish, especially with the score I can rack up to that point (my best is 292,075 but by phase 3, I’m always over 200k), that I could continue on the phase I’m on. It can be personally very frustrating to get that deep in, to only have to start over from the very beginning, and it makes it quite difficult to learn the later stuff. But again – that’s me – I’m not the best SHMUP player out there, and if you’re a pro, I doubt you’ll have the trouble I had.
Beyond that, my only other recommendation would be the ability to see what your squad is from the pause menu – specifically what their weapons are, and what order they’re coming in – it would also be cool to be able to re shuffle their order but that’s certainly not a big thing, just would be cool. I really just want to know what weapons I’m using/going to use when my current pilot dies. THANKFULLY, there IS a short hand picture and one letter abbreviation on the bottom left of the screen that gives me some idea about what I’m using, and that image IS used on the pilot selection screen – but that requires me to remember the image and hope the letter isn’t duplicated. It’s certainly waaaay better than nothing, but I also only just noticed it as I was playing the game while writing this – it’s really hard to look at it while playing as I’m generally trying to not die and kick some alien ass. I really wanted more details on pause so I can focus on it – rather than trying to not die while I figure out what weapon I have. Again, this is not a huge issue, but would certainly make my life easier.
Now that I’ve gotten my two personal issues out of the way, after covering what makes this game epic, I should probably wrap this all up in a bow. Starr Mazer DSP is a great game if you’re into SHMUPs and highly recommended. It’s still in works so much can and will change but it’s got a great foundation with some flaws for those of us who don’t live and breathe SHMUPs – but that’s just it – SOME flaws – the game is FAR more accessible to me than the vast majority of SHMUPs I try to play, and I praise God that it’s not a bullet hell.
So, for those of you that skip to the end of a detailed review and instead look for the final look – Starr Mazer DSP is an impressive start to a game still in early access, and definitely recommended.
4 Cat Admirals out of 5
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