Game Review: Super Destronaut Land Wars (PS Vita)

Developer Petite Games have already collaborated with PS Vita stalwarts Ratalaika Games to port a number of their games across to the handheld. We loved the previous game in the series, Super Destronaut DX, but this time they’ve added a new dimension to the game… literally. Super Destronaut Land Wars takes the classic Space Invaders theme and throws it head first into a 3D first person shooter environment! But does this transformation work?

Growing Up

I’ve always been a fan of arcade games right since I was a kid. Living in a city centre meant that I usually had to cope with poor home copies of the latest arcade hits. It was only on annual family holidays or occasional day trips where I had the chance to get to grips hands-on with the classics from Atari, Sega, Namco, Taito and the legendary games that shaped the industry. Family holidays usually consisted of time at the beach, pestering my parents so I could spend time every day in the arcades (including one in the holiday camp we always stayed in), and trips around various parts of North Wales. And to avoid boredom while I played on all the arcade classics, my parents usually wandered off to the prize bingo or the slot machines nearby.

Things have come on a long way since then. We’ve had perfect conversions of pretty much every game you could possibly think of that has graced the arcades. Even the arcades themselves have changed. Gone are the games we were used to. While a few remain, most of these are in specialist arcades now. The old arcades we grew up with are now overrun with coin pushers, prize grabbers, more expensive prize bingo and higher stakes slots. And even those are struggling to survive as they move online – there are plenty of bingo outlets and to be honest when people can find the best casino bonus Canada here why would they want to play games in arcades stuck amongst strangers when they can play in the comfort of their homes?

And holidays… well, North Wales isn’t quite the holiday hot spot it used to be (although I did move to Wales not long after launching this site so it can’t be all bad) and people in the UK have developed a greater passion for taking their Summer holidays overseas instead! As for the old games we used to remember? They’ve evolved a bit over the last 30 or so years too…

Enter: Super Destronaut Land Wars

There can’t be many gamers out there who aren’t familiar with the Taito classic Space Invaders. Despite being over 40 years old, the game has remained a true classic whose gameplay has managed to stand the test of time perfectly. Over the years it’s been updated and seen various official updates, with varying degrees of success. And when Petite Games developed Super Destronaut DX I was understandably skeptical. Transforming the visuals from 2D pixel art into 3D vectors, adding power-ups, varying attack waves (inspired by Galaxian and Galaga) and adding additional game modes and it could have gone horribly wrong.

But it didn’t. It treated the original with respect and delivered a fast paced, addictive tribute to the original while still being fun to play. The only downside – for those trophy hunters out there – was that it was easy to acquire the Platinum Trophy in under an hour of play. So having developed a fun Space Invaders tribute, just how could Super Destronaut Land Wars build upon that?

Entering The Third Dimension

Instead of rehashing the first game, Petite Games have taken a new approach for Super Destronaut Land Wars. This time, the game takes place in a first person shooter environment. Essentially it’s now an arena based game and you face off against small waves of invading aliens that appear sporadically. As before, there are various game modes to offer some variety in the gameplay but at the core it’s essentially a case of moving around the enclosed arena, destroying the aliens and trying to survive as long as possible.

The game is presented in a 3D vector style (think Tron) with a minimalist approach to its design. All you see is the area itself, a few obstacles you can hide behind, your gun of choice and any aliens you encounter. While the effect looks good to start, it does get to feel repetitive very quickly. And the fact that the game is played out in just one arena adds to this monotony.

Game Modes

There are several game modes on offer, designed to extend the longevity of Super Destronaut Land Wars. As with its predecessor, the Challenge Mode gives you 30 different missions to play, each with different objectives. These are quite diverse ranging from score based, to defeating a set number of aliens or collecting coins dropped to use in the in-game shop. Challenges are timed and ratings are awarded at the end depending on your time for completion (and faster completion is essential if you want to max out all the trophies here). Even if you complete a challenge there’s some replay value here trying to beat your previous times.

In addition to this, there are five Arcade Modes available to choose from. Classic Mode is a straightforward endless mode – just keep going until you run out of health, building up as high a score as possible. Collect coins, and using them in the in-game shop to upgrade your abilities and weapons as you go. The Hardcore Mode is essentially the same, but with tougher enemies, more of them and you start off at a higher levels.

Combo Breaker Mode is next up and this is really a speed challenge. You start out with your bonus score multiplier at maximum but it’s slowly depleting. As you destroy the alien invaders this builds back up and it’s game over when it runs out or when you run out of health. Maximum Strength Mode gives you a single weapon to play the game with – a rocket launcher. And to finish off is the Snail Mode. This limits your abilities slightly by slowing you down and stops you from jumping so you have to play a little more cautiously.

Gameplay

I did find that Super Destronaut Land Wars was a relatively fun game in short bursts but despite the different game modes, each really felt the same during play. Only the challenges felt as if they offered any variation to the game but with each being relatively brief I don’t know what long-term appeal these would have. Adding timing to the challenges added a little more depth to it over the first release, but it still didn’t break the monotony once you complete them. One thing that did frustrate me with the challenges as well was that I found myself dying unexpected far too many times to mention. Challenges didn’t have time limits, nor were they reliant on other conditions and while I still had health left they just ended abruptly. Frustrating wasn’t the word for it. If there were additional conditions in place for each challenge then these should have been made clear during play but they weren’t.

Identity Crisis

The main problem I really had with this chapter of the Super Destronaut series is that it doesn’t seem to have an identity of its own. Apart from the look of the aliens that attack you, there’s no similarity any more with Space Invaders and even the pacing is different to the previous game. Only the visual style remains so it seems as if the connection is tenuous at best. For the most part it just feels like a first person shooter rather than anything else, right down to the controls. That’s fine if you’re a fan of FPS games, but if you’re expecting something closer to the first Super Destronaut game then you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Overall

While I applaud the developers for trying something new this time around, sadly it falls somewhat short of the mark. All of the charm and appeal of the first game has been lost somewhere along the way. This has been replaced with a soulless experience that plays like countless other FPS games that have come before it. If it weren’t for the name, and the visuals, this could just be any other game and would have slipped under the radar unnoticed.

Truthfully, I can’t think of many 80s arcade games that could be transformed from a 2D to 3D environment, be modernised and still retain everything that made the original work. You’ll get enough entertainment from this to justify the asking price, especially if you have a PS4 as well to take advantage of the Cross Buy, but don’t expect anything particularly earth-shattering.

At A Glance

  • Title: Super Destronaut Land Wars
  • Publisher: Ratalaika Games
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Memory Card Spare Required: 130Mb
  • Cross Buy: Yes (PS4)
  • Cross Play: N/A
  • Online Multiplayer: N/A
  • Local Multiplayer: N/A
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC

Vita Player Rating - 06

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About Simon Plumbe 922 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian.Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe