What's in a name? In the case of videogames, it's usually not much. If you had no idea what kind of game Metal Gear Solid was, would reading the title help matters? Everyone's seen the poor soccer mom at GameStop looking completely befuddled as she stares at a wall full of highly descriptive names looking for the perfect gift. Is Lost Planet about finding a planet? On that note, what journey went missing in Lost Odyssey? At least you have some semblance of what A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! is from the title, as we can confirm that this $2 PlayStation Mini investment will indeed produce a game in which you shoot things in space for your alien-maiming enjoyment.
ABOVE: When America's freedoms are threatened, only Commander P. Jefferson has enough patriotism to save the day
A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! starts in a way you probably wouldn't expect a space shooter to begin, as our story opens with a young boy constantly being tormented at school by a bully. The boy gets so fed up with being tied to the cafeteria bench every day that he decides to bulk up in an attempt to show that bully what's what, only to be thwarted once more by the bully's mighty fist. That bully would grow up to become Commander P. Jefferson, pilot of the USS Eradicator and savior of the human race.
This combination of Vic Viper and Biff from Back to the Future loves shooting aliens (in space), and at one point he calls war “the greatest accomplishment of mankind.” The campaign features a surprisingly large amount of dialogue between Jefferson and the alien menace, and while the constant fourth-wall breaking by Jefferson to remind you how much you suck can instigate a chuckle, most of the script comes off as trying way too hard to be funny. When the humor hits, it hits hard, but it misses just as hard when it falls flat, and it misses much more than it hits.
However this only applies to the things that Quebec-based Frima Studios intended to be funny. A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! is fully voiced, and it is here where it becomes readily apparent that this game came from the great white north. Most of the characters have a thick Canadian accent not seen since Dead Rising 2, and any fan of audioatrocities.com will immediately forgive the lackluster script due to the fantastically awful voice work. We don't know which French Canadian hobo they got to play P. Jefferson, but the $5 and free donuts Frima paid to get him in studio were well worth it.
ABOVE: Yup. It's a space shooter
A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! falls into the vertical shmup sub-genre of the space shooter a la Raiden or Ikaruga, and the game features six main missions along with ten optional missions sprinkled throughout the galaxy. Frima studios has successfully combined the vertical shmup with Mega Man, as each boss killed lands you a new special weapon. These weapons range from a black hole that sucks in enemy bullets to a cloaking device, and, like Mega Man, they all have limited ammo, so you'll probably end up saving them for the boss.
The sub missions all end with you fighting a Voltron-inspired creature made out of different sets of enemies, and while you don't get a fancy new weapon for tackling these missions, your ship's health is bumped up for every one you complete. Also, completing the sub missions nabs you extra experience points, which can be spent to upgrade your main cannon as well as improve the effectiveness of the special weapons. A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! can get pretty damn tough near the end, so spending the extra time to beef up your ship is highly recommended.
ABOVE: He may seem easy, but the first boss in the game puts up a huge challenge
The upgrade system is awesome and adds a layer of depth not usually seen in the genre, but it also leads to the game giving a bad first impression. Due to the worthless pea shooter the USS Eradicator starts out with, the first level of the game also happens to be the hardest to complete. This frustration is also amplified by the controls. In 99.9% of shmups, your ship is highly maneuverable and can change directions on a dime to avoid enemy fire, but in A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks!, Your ship slides around space like a bar of soap in a bathtub, which provides almost no tactile feel. This becomes even more annoying due to your ship’s unforgiving hit box. In most shmups, a bullet only hits if it lands near or around the ship’s cockpit, but if a bullet touches even one pixel of your ship in this game, it hits. When the game reaches near bullet-hell levels in the final stages, this along with the loose controls can really start to grate on your nerves.
Eventually you'll beat the first level after getting used to the controls, and from that point the game is a treat for any fan of shmups. A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! can be played on either your PSP or PS3, and the 16-bit art style looks fantastic on the go, but not so much as home, as the ballooning of the visuals to your HDTV brings out all of the warts in glorious high definition. The campaign will take between 2-3 hours depending on your skill level, and with four difficulty settings to go along with a brutal survival mode, there's plenty of content to keep you busy.
ABOVE: The black hole cannon is extremely useful in getting out of sticky situations
While the title tells you what the game is, it also features the reason to forgive the game’s shortcomings: It's $2! Two bucks ain't much. That barely gets you a pack of gum these days, so a fully-featured shmup with all the trimmings for the same price is quite the value proposition. We can whine about how it might not be the best shmup we've ever played, but the best shmup we've ever played probably didn't cost $2, and Commander P. Jefferson's space odyssey is easily worth that to anyone who wants to shoot stuff throughout the universe.
Jan 26, 2011