I’ve been caught up in WildStar, graduations, and other things, so I haven’t gotten a chance to play most of the various shmups (or STGs, as they’re sometimes known) that have released on Steam in some fashion recently. I made a quick attempt at a few of them recently, so here are some impressions.
Crimsonland is a top-down shooter reminiscent of Smash TV, or Robotron. Many different weapon types are used to kill hordes of zombie-like aliens, and there’s some progression that involves unlocking different weapons (which vary in terms of accuracy, fire rate, secondary effect, reload time, etc.) and perks (if these did anything at all I didn’t notice). It’s apparently a remake of a game that released for PC eleven years ago, but I didn’t know that going in. Of the games mentioned here, I think I enjoyed this one the least. The player’s movement feels incredibly slow (although there are speed powerups you can find in the levels) and the weapons just aren’t that interesting.
An Early Access game, this one’s more like Geometry Wars or Super Stardust. You fly around as an odd dragon-thing and use customizable weapons to shoot down flying saws. I almost wish I was making that part up. I got this one because it has co-op, but I tried with Belghast last night and couldn’t get it to work. The weapon customization is interesting, but I think this is one of those games that would be much more interesting in multiplayer. It’s a bit basic without, or at least it starts that way.
The “sequel” of sorts to Ether Vapor Remaster, Astebreed puts you in control of a flying mech with a giant sword. This (mostly) side-scrolling shooter is full of enemies and bullets, but has some additional mechanics, namely the lock-on and the sword. You can hold the fire button(s) to lock onto enemies and fire on them, but this reduces your ability to fire normally while it’s going on. The sword allows you to both make invincible dashes across the screen and to deal damage/destroy enemy attacks in a small area in front of you. The sword is a lot of fun to play around with, and it’s also quite useful and factors heavily into the scoring system. This one’s a little more expensive than the others on the list, but it carries correspondingly higher production values, graphics, and an actual story. (It’s crazy and Japanese, but it’s there.) If you have any interest in the genre, Astebreed is highly recommended.
Crimzon Clover WORLD IGNITION
A port of an arcade game which was ported from a Japanese indie (or Doujin) PC game, Crimzon Clover replaces Jamestown for me as the best scrolling shooter on Steam. Sitting squarely in the Bullet Hell category, Crimzon clover has more traditional aesthetics than the other games here, featuring a spaceship firing many bullets at other spaceships, as well as a “bomb” button (more on this in a bit). As a bullet hell game, you have a tiny hitbox, the screen is filled with bullets (both yours and the enemies), and the difficulty is through the roof (even on Novice). Instead of having a stock of bombs to deal with the swarm, there’s a “break gauge” that governs bomb usage. When over a certain point, pressing the bomb button uses a bomb, which clears the screen of bullets and damages all enemies on screen. If it’s full, you instead enter “Break Mode”, which massively increases firepower. If filled again while in break mode, you can enter Double Break Mode for further bonuses. This is extremely satisfying, and the resulting spray of stars and colors looks awesome. I have a hard time recommending this game to anyone unfamiliar with the genre (Jamestown is my recommendation for getting into it), but I think this might be the best shooter on steam right now.