Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Mommy’s Best Games
Release Date: 02/25/2010
I am not, nor ever have been, a huge shoot ’em up (SHMUP) player. I used to mess with them back on the SNES, and have dabbled around with R-Type on Wii’s Virtual Console, but other than that, the genre just hasn’t interested me much. So why in the world would I even download the demo of a shooter such as Shoot 1UP? I honestly can’t answer that. What I do know is that the demo grabbed me. This appeared to be a fun, not-too-difficult vertical shooter that even I might enjoy. Hoping it paid off, I held my breath, grabbed my controller, and hit “Confirm Purchase”Â on my first ever XNA Community game.
Admittedly, this decision was not nearly as dramatic as I have just made it out to be thanks to the very measly 80 Microsoft Point price tag, but I enjoy being grandiose.
I am a bit embarrassed to admit that Shoot 1UP is my first purchase on Microsoft’s “indie” platform, but I bet a lot of people share the same shame. The community games service that Microsoft has developed for young and/or growing game developers is great, although often overlooked (even by myself). There are some gems to be found on this service that are being forgotten. From games like Shoot 1UP to SFG Soccer, Inside Lacrosse: College Lacrosse 2010, and Supercow, there are a load of noteworthy games. Hopefully I can start shining some well-deserved light on these titles in my time at Diehard GameFAN.
Without further adieu, let’s get on to the review and see if Shoot 1UP could live up the “hype”Â that I built for it from the demo.
There actually a story in this shooter, and I can quote it in it’s entirety: “We were caught off guard…so many lives were lost. We think our phalanx is all that’s left. But we aren’t going down without a FIGHT.”
Obviously the story is not the reason to play this, or virtually any other SHMUP I’ve come across. With that in mind, it isn’t fair to grade this game based on the story, so I will turn to modes instead.
There are two modes in Shoot 1UP: a standard story mode with six different levels, and a special, gigantic boss at the end of each. There are three different difficulty levels: “Chilled” (for beginners), “Normal” (for those that have some SHMUP experience), and “Serious” (longer levels, more action). Each difficulty level sets itself apart from the other by adding in more enemies and fewer 1-ups. The difference between serious and chilled is big, but there is an excellent bridge between the two difficulties with normal.
The second mode is called “Score Trek”, and it harkens back to the standard vertical shooter- there is only one ship, and the objective is to chase the high score.
What is great is that the game allows all of these modes (on any difficulty) to be played co-op, with a partner. Offline co-op is the only option, but this is still a great feature that feels fully fleshed out, even adding in some unique power-ups.
The story is rubbish, but who plays a SHMUP for the story anyway? What is more important for a game like this are the modes available, and Shoot 1UP does a fine job of delivering with three very different difficulty levels, and a special Score Trek mode for high score chasers. That is plenty to play around with. If that isn’t enough, however, the game speed can be changed (from 25%-200% in 25% increments). This changes the game quite a bit, and can be used as an additional difficulty tweaker.
Story Rating: Great
Shoot 1UP stays simple with the graphics, and it pays off well. The two different ship options look great with just the right amount of detail. The different level environments are just backgrounds that repeat over and over again until the end of the level, but each of the six different levels have a unique background associated to it. Each of the bosses are related to the current background. There is one level with a couple of almost-naked women on the background (don’t worry, the “naughty parts” are covered), and the final boss in that level is a women with mechanical breasts that fire out bullets from her…well, I will leave the rest to the imagination. Needless to say, it was hysterical.
Speaking of the bosses, each boss varies wildly from the others. When a boss is taking damage, it lights up, like SHMUP players have come to expect. The different enemies are detailed well. Each level adds in a new type of enemy, to give something different to look at while progressing through the game. There is nothing Earth shattering here, but it all looked great. There was never a moment where I was turned off by the graphics, and there are even some nicely drawn still shots that appear when the game begins, after a death, and upon completion.
In a game like this, where there can be hundreds of different things on screen at one time (between the bullets, ships, and enemies), if the graphics start to hiccup at all, it can mean game over. Luckily, Shoot 1UP is able to deliver in even the most intense situations.
Graphics Rating: Great
The sound is alright, but so much of it sounds similar to me that it is difficult to give this area high praises. Even after playing through it specifically listening for sound changes, it all stayed similar, with this sci-fi techno sound (for lack of a better term) dominating. The bosses bring some changes to the music, and each level is slightly different, but nothing really sets itself apart from anything else. The shot sounds are fine, but this area left me wanting more overall.
Sound Rating: Below Average
Control and Gameplay
For those that have never played a SHMUP before, let me explain: generally, there is one ship being controlled, fighting against thousands of enemies. This ship usually has one main weapon, and is able to collect power-ups along the way to upgrade to a more powerful ship. The game is referred to as either a “vertical shooter”Â or “horizontal shooter”Â based on the direction the ship is moving. It is a classic formula that has been around for ages, and Shoot 1UP is a great example of it.
This game relies heavily on timing with the left stick, which I never had a problem with. You use LS to move the ship, LT to shrink the ship’s phalanx, RT to expand it, and A to shoot – very simple. The controls worked flawlessly for Shoot 1UP. If there is one good thing I can say about the Xbox 360 controller it’s that the joysticks are some of the best ever created, which helped immensely with the
The gameplay is great as well. The theme of this game is “what if all the 1-ups attained were used immediately, adding ships to the battle right away instead of just one ship that keeps coming back to life?” With this concept in mind, the player starts off with three ships on-screen, and is then played just like a normal vertical or horizontal shooter.
Back to Shoot 1UP, as the levels progress, the player collects “1UP”Â balloons, and every time one is collected, another ship is immediately added on-screen. The ships are controlled by their phalanx, which allows the player to collapse the ships together, making them harder to be hit by the enemy, or to expand out for a larger force field and range of attack. Whenever one ship gets hit, it disappears. There is a maximum of 30 ships (60 when playing co-op) as the game goes along, but once the last ship is hit, it is game over.
There is also a bit of strategy when handling all these different ships at the same time because they need to be able to maneuver small areas at points, use each other to expand a defense field, and to fire a laser, which does a lot of damage to the enemy.
There are 6 different levels, as I have mentioned before, and each level ends with a different boss. After beating the main quest, high score chasers can move to reaching the high score in any of the three difficulties, or in the Score Trek mode.
Another unique feature to Shoot 1UP’s gameplay is that it isn’t just a vertical shooter. Different path options are given along the journey, and it can become a horizontal shooter, or a “free-form” shooter (meaning it is both vertical and horizontal, depending on where the ship is on-screen). I feel the game is supposed to be played as a vertical shooter, especially because all the bosses are vertical, but this is still a cool feature, and one that adds difficulty (whenever entering horizontal or free-form, things get much tougher).
Then there is co-op. Any of the three difficulties and the Score Trek mode can be played with a partner. This adds another level of power-ups and strategy to Shoot 1UP. The time I spent playing through the game with my girlfriend was a lot of fun.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Incredible
Anybody who has ever played a SHMUP before should be able to blow through Casual difficulty in under 30-minutes the first time they pick up the game. Where the replayability comes in, however, is with the higher difficulties, and the fact that once the last ship is destroyed, the game starts right over from the beginning. There are also the speed settings which allow for multiple playthroughs at more frantic (or slower) speeds.
One thing that kept me coming back for more was the one unlockable in the game: the second ship. The game says to collect two pies in order to unlock this ship, but these pies are not necessarily easy to find the first time through. In fact, the first time I beat the game, I didn’t even find one. Trying to unlock the second ship is a great reason to replay the game, though it’s easier to do this with a guide or FAQ.
Although XNA Community games are not allowed to add achievements, Mommy’s Best Games still throw in “Awards” (achievements with a different name). There are 17 awards to win. This added a bit to the game for me, but because there was no Gamerscore effect, I am not too torn up that I have about 7 left to unlock.
The area that will find the most replayability has to be the high score. So far, I have made it up to the #2 spot on the high score list for one of the difficulties; this is fun for me to chase, and I imagine that old-school shooter fans will be coming back to reach the high score on each level. What is lacking is an online component; it isn’t possible to share high scores with friends at all, or to play any sort of co-op online. This is unfortunate, but for the price, I can’t really complain.
Replayability Rating: Good
Eighty Microsoft Points comes out to $1. One-hundred pennies for this game is an incredible deal. There is a lot to be found, and even just for one playthrough, it is worth the money. There are few games for $1 that I could recommend any higher than Shoot 1UP.
The difficulty balance is nearly perfect; I never felt like there was too big or too little of a difficulty progression. For someone looking for an easy SHMUP, Shoot 1UP has the Casual mode. But for SHMUP veterans, there is Serious mode, and they can crank up the game speed.
Balance Rating: Unparalleled
Although the tried-and-true shooter engine is evident, Shoot 1UP changes it by adding in multiple ships at the same time, and also by allowing vertical shooting, horizontal shooting, and free-form shooting. It is a great innovation that I hope more shooters will start using in the future.
Originality Rating: Very Good
My girlfriend picked up the controller a few minutes before she had to go to work (and she has never played a SHMUP before in her life). Ten minutes later, I had to remind her to go to work. Her response- “oh, I forgot about work. That thing is addictive”.
As with most SHMUPS that I have played, they keep the player coming back for more. Whether it’s chasing the high score, unlocking the second ship or just to beat it one more time, Shoot 1UP is about as addictive as they come.
Addictiveness Rating: Incredible
What I love so much about Shoot 1UP is that it can cater to the hardcore shooter fan as well as the casual shooter fan thanks to the varied difficulty levels. This will appeal to anyone that has an interest in vertical (or horizontal) shooters, and they will have fun with this game. Unfortunately, because it is a XNA Community game, people may not know much about it, and it can be overlooked. Well, this is what I am here to help overcome: check out this game!
Appeal Factor Rating: Great
On rare occasions, when I am playing through a video game, a natural smile appears on my face thanks to the fun I am having. That smile describes my thoughts on Shoot 1UP perfectly. The fact that this title can be played alone or with a friend (offline) is an excellent addition.
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
Sound: Below Average
Control and Gameplay: Incredible
Originality: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Great
FINAL SCORE: Great
Short Attention Span Summary
Don’t let the low price tag of 80 Microsoft Points and the fact that it is a XNA Community game fool you: Shoot 1UP is one of the better shooters I have played. For someone looking to break into the SHMUP genre, or for a seasoned veteran looking for a challenge, this is the game to buy. If you still don’t believe me, go ahead and give the demo a run. That’s what sold me. For $1, there really isn’t a better buy.