September 3, 2012 6 Comments
To make a game that is a local-only four player top-down 2D arena shooter on a market like Xbox Live Indie Games takes guts. That’s because you’re making a game with the full knowledge that it will be a tougher sell than a steak house in the middle of Mumbai. I’ve played a few multiplayer-only games on XBLIG and they tend to range from solid hit to complete miss. Nothing so far has really found the middle ground. Well that’s over with, because Warp Shooter stubbornly refuses to be either awesome or horrible.
Warp Shooter is the product of a group of students from Indiana. Their story is a fascinating one that will be told in an upcoming edition of Tales from the Dev Side. This is the third student project I’ve reviewed, following Mr. Gravity and Heroes of Hat, both out of the University of Utah. The relatively simple puzzler Mr. Gravity, despite becoming impossibly difficult in later stages, was good enough to make the leaderboard. Heroes of Hat, a more ambitious title, was plagued with various technical glitches, unfair level design, and bad control. Obviously simpler works better for students.
I guess that’s why it’s weird to see a relatively simple concept turned so overly complex. Warp Shooter plays like a modernized version of Combat. I gathered three amigos (sadly not THE Three Amigos, although I hear Martin Short is insatiable) and asked them kindly to help me with my latest review. When they refused to do it out of kindness, I offered to bribe them. Finally, I had my goons take their families hostage. Hey, I have a duty here, and they were fucking with it.
Things got off to a slow start when nobody could figure out how to move. There’s no tutorial, so the four of us fumbled around, doing our best to pretend like we knew what we were doing. Most firing was done from a stationary position, until Chevy figured out that movement was done by pressing the right trigger while pointing the right stick in the direction you want to go. Mind you, the right stick also controls your firing. Thrust is limited, so you’re never in full control of your vehicle. You do have the ability to aim a little dot thingy that causes damage to an opponent if it touches them, or you can warp to the spot the dot is on. It’s supposed to provide an alternate means of movement, but it’s slow and clunky and it doesn’t provide the element of being unpredictable that other movement means has. You can see where the person is warping to. It’s like drawing a diagram for your enemies. “I’ll be moving here. Take aim and fire at your leisure.” It would be like the army replacing fatigues with tee shirts supplied by Target.
The best party games tend to be self-explanatory. Warp Shooter is regrettably missing that. We never did get the hang of it, but after about twenty to thirty minutes, it did provide moderate fun. The absurd amount of options provided assures that you would have to be actively trying to not have fun to, well, not have fun. When we turned on three asteroids and death rays, we were whooping and laughing and high-fiving each other, even though we could barely move. It was like watching the Narcoleptic Olympics. I can barely squeeze out something resembling a recommendation for Warp Shooter, but chances are when it only makes the Leaderboard on the grounds that “well, it’s playable!” that’s a sign that maybe some aspects of the game should be rethought. Starting with the movement controls. I can’t imagine anything that is more awkward or dangerous to use. Maybe a B-52 which has their weapons mapped to their intercom button.
Warp Shooter is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Click here to see where it landed.