When it comes to side-scrolling shooters, there are really, honestly, two kinds of people – those who pick them up for two minutes and say: “This is fun, but not for me,” and those who let little explosions rule their lives. Soldner-X caters to the latter – it’s not going to convert anyone, and, in fact, its punitive life system and remarkably tough difficulty make it rather inaccessible.
For the uninitiated, you fly to the right of the screen, shooting enemies with a selection of weapons that range from plasma bolts to gigantic lightning fields. This sounds dull until you realize the developers throw endless streams of unerring, technicolor enemies at you. By streams, we mean actual lines: spiraling, curling, twirling and shooting at you, sometimes almost filling the entire screen. Your goal is to build combos by shooting multiple enemies with the same weapon without switching – which only makes an already difficult game nigh-on impossible. Even on Very Easy mode, your average gamer will find Soldner-X somewhere between hard and controller-throwingly frustrating.
Even when you crack the relatively obtuse, strangely written tutorial menus, and learn some of the patterns, it seems that Soldner-X never fails to bring more Herculean tasks your way. You’ll find the screen literally full of things, with around an inch for your craft to maneuver around a random stream of ship-damaging projectiles. It requires a level of patience and the reaction times of a monk, and the ability to follow so much on screen that it just locks itself out from a large contingent of gamers.
But Soldner-X isn’t bad. It’s slick, it’s gorgeous to look at, and the audience it caters for – the hardcore shoot-‘em-up crowd – will find this an absolute treat. It controls tightly, levels flow well, and the challenges come from learning enemies’ patterns and reacting faster than most human beings do. It only loses marks for being so remarkably inaccessible – even the easiest setting may as well be marked ‘bleed from the eyes difficult'. Finally, we'd say that Soldner-X is tough, but rewarding. It just lacks any kind of overall balance.
Jan 28, 2009