I don’t hide the fact that I’m an old-school gamer… okay, most people would tend to just describe me as an old gamer but that’s a totally different topic for discussion. Regardless, I have a fondness for classic retro gaming no matter what the game type, whether it is a platform game, puzzler or shoot-em-up.
Bearing that in mind, I had been looking forward to Mega Blast for some time. Released by Super Icon (who were responsible for the fantastic Life Of Pixel) and it’s a top view space shoot-em-up that, on first viewing, looks similar to Space Invaders, Galaga and countless others like it. Spread across countless attack waves it has a typical “one man against the universe and must save the world” plot which has little bearing on the game itself but – to be honest – no one ever really cares about storylines when it comes to arcade shooters. If prompted, most gamers would struggle to retell the back stories behind most classic arcade games and being blunt they wouldn’t be bothered about them either!
So you’re faced with having to destroy wave after wave of alien craft staying alive as long as possible. It’s standard arcade fare with power-ups and different weapons to collect as you play. Okay, I will admit it and say that there IS more to it than that. The powerups that you can collect are quite varied and generally do make a difference to the game. These offer you several different types of weapons including a beam, twin cannons and a single shot gun, shields and a slow-down device that will make your life a lot easier enabling you to dodge all the incoming missiles with ease. As well as the powerups, tokens can be collected that boost your score multiplier and depending on how many you collect, these can be exchanged between levels to upgrade your ship.
These upgrades allow you to improve your ship in four areas – ship speed, shot power, shot speed, and firing rate and each of these has four levels of upgrades. To upgrade, each costs a number of upgrade points and you can earn a maximum of two points per wave (from collecting the tokens that I mentioned earlier). As each upgrade costs between 2 and 5 points you have to choose wisely…!
Every ten levels you are faced with a large boss to content with that takes a lot more firepower to deal with and – in true boss fashion – lets rip with far more of an offensive onslaught against you than the aliens you’ve been dealing with up to that point. Manage to defeat that boss and you receive a promotion in rank and then you move onto the next level with the ultimate goal of reaching the rank of Fleet Admiral.
Controls are simple enough – left and right naturally move your ship and X fires your current weapon. Pressing O uses your thrust which moves your ship forwards up the screen allowing you to collect the tokens and other items left behind from aliens that you have destroyed on the screen. The only other button you need to use is the right shoulder button which will thrust your ship quickly to the top of the screen and then invert it so you can shoot downwards instead, and pressing it again will return you to the bottom of the screen – it takes a few plays to get used to this but it can help with some of the attack waves later in the game.
The sound is typically retro with a assortment of blasting sound effects and explosions accompanied by classic chip tunes playing throughout. Visuals also stick to the retro theme and while the backgrounds are limited to predictably bland scrolling starfields, the aliens, explosions and ships are vivid and neon-bright, with colour simply oozing from the screen. Granted, the graphics may not be the best that PlayStation Mobile has to offer but that’s not the point here – it’s a retro-inspired shooter and if the game looked too “modern” it would lose much of its charm.
That’s the game pretty much in a nutshell and like the games that inspired it, it’s very quick and easy to pick up and play but incredibly difficult to put down. The earlier stages ease you in gently but not so easy that you tire of them quickly so they’re still fun to play whether you find them challenging or not. By the time the difficulty level has stepped up a gear you’ll already have been drawn deep into the game and by that point it will be too late and you will have already found yourself hooked for life!
The only real downside – ignoring the current drawbacks of PlayStation Mobile of having no Trophy or Leaderboard support – was the fact that while there is a high score table, this is only temporary and it is reset each time you load the game. Saying that, it’s only a minor gripe and doesn’t really impact on what is a fantastic shooter.
This really is a superb example of retro gaming, is incredibly addictive and captures the 80s arcade feel perfectly without being constrained by its sources of inspiration. For me this game epitomises everything that PlayStation Mobile is all about – high quality gaming, fantastic value for money and it’s a game that is ideal for short bursts or longer gaming sessions and I honestly couldn’t ask for anything more. This is yet another essential PSM purchase from Super Icon.
At A Glance
- Title: Mega Blast
- Publisher: Super Icon Ltd
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 52Mb