(XBLIG) Pester: A Hardcore Homage to Shooters of Old!
Shooters in space are as common to videogames as the stars in the sky. However, once in awhile there comes a game that sets itself apart from the pack in ways that surprise you. Not an easy feat in this niche market and I’m pleased to say this was a HUGE surprise.
Pester is as easy an entry to pick up and play as anything from this beloved genre. In arcade mode you scroll upward blasting your way through space… things. Things like fighters, frigates, bugs and floating heads? After collecting coins from fallen space foes you nab power ups for shot upgrades and speed. Coins collected fill a hyper bar that brings some temporary extreme flaming death to your shots and make it look like your ship is smoking. You progress through a stage, encounter a boss, defeat the boss, rinse and repeat.
The Tempus mode is similar to arcade mode, but with a timer element attached so that you MUST collect the coins in order to keep progressing at all or you run out of time and the game ends. Sort of like Outrun, but in space and with shooting. Fun alternative to spice up the challenge arcade already boasts.
Both Tempus and Arcade have additional play modes that offer surival, asteroid belt and a Boss Mode. Meeting a required score amount unlocks a new play mode. So it goes “Classic” from the beginning to Survival after earning 40k points in Classic, to Asteroid Belt, to Boss Mode. Also, there’s the difficulty increase to bump up and the “Dual Mode” to keep things extremely interesting.
Dual Mode is a variant of play that puts TWO ships in your control instead of just one, where either stick controls an individual ship creating one of the most hardcore shooter experiences that I have EVER had the pleasure of enjoying. Really tests your skills flying two ships through a screen bathed in death. It’s easily one of the most amazing gimmicks I’ve ever enjoyed in a scrolling shooter. Not that the other options and play modes aren’t also appreciated.
I just haven’t earned any yet because the game is constructed out of the old school philosophy of game design meaning EVERYTHING on screen is meant to kill you and they’re pretty good at it. Not that this is a problem because I freaking LOVE it!!! The challenge gives me something to look forward to and the rising difficulty curve is always there to test me when I think I’ve aced the game. The little rewards sprinkled about adding play modes as markers for progress are a great idea too making all your delicious tears unleashed by this game totally worth your anguish.
Flump Studios cranked out a spiritual successor to arcade greatness in an upward scrolling shooter that is enhanced by its intentional simplicity rather than hampered by it. It’s a strange notion to digest. It’s like some anomaly about to collapse in on itself because it’s a far out concept that appears at first glance to be deceptively simplistic, yet comes off as smooth as space pudding. I guess. Not that I can compare puddings or anything, but everything from space is better so… Space Pudding.
Your ship and enemy units are displayed in intentionally oversized pixels as you travel upward navigating between enemy projectiles and enemies themselves in the classic “bullet hell” (or “Bullet Heaven” according to the cover art) style of shooter gameplay. Stuff is everywhere, the screen is choked with enemy units of all shapes, sizes and patterns of movement ensuring that no one place is a safe spot on-screen as you blast away in a desperate bid to clear more space to maneuver as enemy reinforcements fly to replace their fallen comrades. It’s a stalwart classic concept that has survived for decades with good reason because it’s a thrill to blast your way out of a tight spot and find yourself up against increasingly impressive challenges that test your mettle as a gamer.
The music is genius for a game like this. Pulsing, bumping audio love that really puts you into that freaky shooter trance spills out of the game. Then there’s the aesthetics, while you’re stuck with the bricktastic-looking visuals in the game there’s the neat level of personal preference that the game boasts on the faux cover indicating different combinations of play. Those “combinations” don’t necessarily change the game per se, but it alters the primary modes of play, how the game sounds and some of the ways the game looks.
For instance, you can change out backgrounds as though it were an arcade cabinet much like some of the Xbox Live games address their screen issues living in a widescreen world. Among these nifty options available is changing the background of the game, changing the overlay, and adding or removing scan lines. It may not seem like much to some, but the thing is that even the higher end arcade titles on Xbox Live don’t over that much customization to your play preference. I’m not going to test all the permutations to verify the number, but 95 seems rather high as numbers go.
This game is a hardcore delight, plain and simple. For the cost, the polish on the game is remarkable and given the replay value available to those who can actually survive the trials of space-endurance that this game provides, this is a treasure.
There’s the rub, though. If you’re not into old-school space shooters or games not designed around holding your hand in terms of difficulty then you’ll have a hard time enjoying this. It’s not quite the same absurd level of difficulty as Ninja Gaiden, but it is plenty brutal enough to collect it’s mail from the same post office on the bad side of Gaming where few folks live to tell the tales of their experiences without tears in their eyes.
I recommend giving the trial a spin because of the easy mode world we live in, but I can’t emphasize adding this to your library soon enough because it injects MUCH needed life into a classic gaming genre I don’t see enough of, especially on the Indie Market. For the price, it is an OBSCENE steal and for the brutal challenge the game offers to space shooter fans there’s a lot of loving the game has to give.