Developer: Xona Games
Publisher: Xona Games
Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Release Date: 12/9/2010
Originality is overrated.
Though I like original and novel ideas and look forward to companies who push the envelope, or in the case of 2010, anyone that’s not Zynga, sometimes, rehashing an old idea is a good thing if the rehash can be executed properly. Instead of screwing around with trying to invent a new wheel, or create some never before seen gameplay, the members of Xona Games – two brothers – probably had their brainstroming meeting for Score Rush in about fifteen seconds.
Jason Doucette: Hey, let’s do Geometry Wars!
Matthew Doucette: OK, but let’s make it a bullet-hell game!
Jason: OK, but let’s put a freakin’ heavy metal soundtrack to it!
The end result is what you would expect: Score Rush is a dual-analogue bullet hell shooter with a rock soundtrack. In short, it’s freaking awesome.
If you’ve played any dual-stick game, you’ve played Score Rush. Left stick moves, right stick shoots. As mentioned before, the closest comparison to this game, by far, is Geometry Wars, except in that game, you were avoiding enemies; here, it’s all about bullets. In execution, this is a Cave shooter on steroids. Within fifteen seconds, there will be more bullets on screen than you know what to do with. Within a minute, you’re fighting your first boss. There’s no convoluted story to absorb here, no cutscenes, not even an actual person to be seen. You control a pixel with a surrounding area, though only the pixel part is able to be hit by bullets, and your enemies are nothing more than blobs. Larger blobs decay as you shoot them more, so there’s visual feedback as to how close things are to dying. There are two types of power-ups: shot power, and options, which snake off of your main body and also fire. The end result is bullets flying all over the place. A massive stream of bullets coming out of you, and by around the third boss, massive amounts of bullets coming towards you as well. As you advance, the bullet streams border on absurd, so if you don’t like bullet hell shooters, you will not like Score Rush. The good news is that the controls are pretty tight, and your pixel is so small, that it’s possible to weave in and out of the bullet storms while firing if you concentrate. I do think the analogue stick is a bit too finicky in a heavy rush; you have to be very careful not to go too far to the edges of the controller because there’s very little difference between going just fast enough and too fast. A little less sensitivity would have been nice for a game that relies on weaving in and out of so many bullets that they fill the screen.
There’s some nice little features to gameplay that wouldn’t be apparent to anyone just picking it up. For example, if you make the screen shake – usually by beating a mid or full boss – you’re invulnerable during the shaking (which also makes your controller go nuts if you have rumble enabled. I haven’t had a controller rumble like this since Rez). Also, if you’re fully powered up, any power ups you pick up send out a shock wave around you that take out any bullets nearby. The only complaint I have about the power ups is that they look suspiciously like bullets, and though they go to you if you’re near them, that’s one distraction I don’t need. The boss fights themselves are awesome. As you take off more life, they get progressively harder, and after your game is over, you’re rated on how quickly you took out each boss you beat, and how many points you got from them.
Score Rush is basically a shooter fan’s shooter, for better or worse. That means it’s mostly better, but casual shooter fans will notice that there’s not a lot of variety to the game. You only unlock harder game modes if you can beat the game the first time through, and that time you’re trying to do that, you’re playing the same exact game, with the same enemy placements, over and over and over. Unlike Geometry Wars 2, there aren’t a whole bunch of modes to try that break gameplay up a bit. It’s literally the same game each and every time. The good news about that is that extra points are given for taking out enemies as soon as they appear, but it does make the early part of the game a chore to go through after you’ve been through it a few times. There’s definitely an emphasis on stage memorization, at least up until the point where the action gets so frantic that all you’re doing is getting the hell away from the bullet rushes.
Graphically, the game is plain but extremely colourful. Everything is bright and screaming in neon, so anyone with an epileptic in their house – like me – will want that person as far away from the screen as possible. I do like the decaying of larger enemies as they get shots put into them. Sound-wise, other than the solid sound effects, there’s an awesome rock soundtrack that only goes a couple of songs deep, but that’s all that’s really needed. Picture early Iron Maiden mixed with Dragonforce and you have an idea of what you’re dealing with.
The end result of all of this is Generation Y’s idea of awesome. This is the actual conversation I had with a friend of mine in regards to this game.
Friend: So, what’s this about now?
Me: Dude! It’s f***ing bullets! Bright, colourful f***ing bullets!
Friend: Sounds awesome!
Me: And heavy metal!
Friend: I have to play this!
Me: Yes, you do! It’s f***ing metal, and f***ing bullets! If they found a way to put karate into the game, I’d about explode.
Friend: Speaking of, you know there’s a Bloodsport marathon on Versus, right?
Me: S***! OK, uh, a few more games, then I’ll catch the next showing.
Best of all? The game’s a buck. That’s it. One dollar gets you a game that, like the Malc quote (from shmups.com) in the options states about all shooters like this, is a game that you can pick up, play for ten minutes, and continue this pattern with for the next decade or two. It’s timeless. This game is from the same company that put out Decimation X31 for the Xbox Indie Games Uprising, and while my preference is Score Rush, these two Nova Scotian brothers obviously have a love of shooters that transfers to their work.
1 Our indie guru Matt Yeager will be reviewing Decimation X3
Note: It should be noted that this game supports up to four players simultaneously. Unfortunately, due to circumstances, I am unable to properly simulate this aspect of the game and have it in by deadline. I have not factored this into my scoring of the game, but it should be noted that on the surface, this is the kind of game you want to have buddies over to play, and would likely make the game easier to play as a whole. It can be very challenging to play this alone.
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
If you grew up playing any kind of shoot ’em up, you owe it to yourself to at least try the trial version of Score Rush to see if it’s up your alley. If you have even a passing interest in dual-stick shooters like Geometry Wars, you really should grab this gem. For 80 Microsoft Points, or 1/15 the price of another stupid Call of Duty map pack, you get a great shooter that rewards reflexes and proper control, and will remain enjoyable long after most AAA titles have hit the bargain bin or been traded in. I can’t recommend this highly enough for shooter fans.