The timing on being asked to look over this game was impeccable as I recently watched the movie “100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience” which featured a section on the classic Japanese bullet hell shooters. I have had a craving to play one ever since, and Power-Up helped fill that need.

Power-Up is a throwback to the classic space shoot ‘em ups of yesterday such as R-Type and Gradius. There are aliens, upgrades to your ships or weapons, and bullets galore to dodge. It’s a tried and true formula and a general description of most of these games that have come out over the past thirty years.

In Power-Up there are five weapon types that you can select at any time: straight ahead, straight back, straight up/down, a forward spread, and a plasma weapon that… does something? I’ll get back to that in a moment. Each weapon can be “powered-up” to give it an incremental boost from items that fly onto the screen as is tradition. From what I could tell, for the most part, these upgrades only increase the rate of fire and lengthen the beam for each shot. If weapons actually do increase in strength it was a small enough increase that they never felt stronger to me. Enemies appeared to take just as long to kill as with “weaker” weapons. The upgrades you collect also don’t appear to be based on anything such as killing a particular enemy; they appear on a set schedule. It took me a number of plays to realize this: “What did I just do to make the bonus points appear? Did I kill something to spawn that power-up?”

Although there are five weapons, you really only need two of them to advance far into the game: the forward spread and the reverse laser. I was able to cheese my way easily through the first three chapters by upgrading my spread weapon before I touched the reverse-firing weapon. It wasn’t until chapter 4, and those little assholes running around on the ground shooting at me, that I needed to work on the up/down-firing weapons. I felt severely outgunned when trying to play with only the single forward shot, and even worse, I never quite figured out what the plasma weapon was supposed to be good for. Its firing range is extremely short so you have to get very close to enemies to be able to use it. I thought perhaps it would deflect bullets like one of the weapons in the classic game 1942 but nope. It felt useless except to fill my screen with a pretty purple.

Purple lasers of ???

Purple lasers of ???

One final problem with the weapons: the fully-charged shots all make the outside of the screen glow white when fired — the faster the shot, the more intense the flashing. I could usually ignore it under normal conditions, but when I was playing while tired one night, the flashing really got to me to the point that I had to turn off the game.

The story isn’t going to win the award for the next Lord of the Rings (that’s an award, right?), but it feels like a classic shooter tale. You’re one of the last humans alive, trying to destroy the people who destroyed Earth. The pilot is a bit easy to rile up and gets himself into trouble. It’s amusing listening to the pilot talk with his computer AI as they determine what to do next.

You don’t have access to a high score list like I would have hoped. The game keeps track of your high score, but the only time you ever get to see it is when you lose all of your lives. It would be nice either to see this score on the title screen or to be able to see a list of them somewhere.

This is beginning to sound like a long gripe-fest but to be honest, I had fun playing this game and it’s a good piece of work for a one-person entry. There are a number of things I feel could be improved upon, but it’s a good value for the price and there is plenty of fun to be had. None of the issues I describe above really make the game bad in any sense. If you’re a fan of shoot ‘em ups, definitely give this one a try.

xboxboxartPower-Up was developed by Psychotic Software.

IGTlogo-01For $1 you, too, can shit yourself when the logo appears at the launch of the game.

Power-Up has earned has been awarded the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval by Miko. Leaderboards for Indie Game Team are coming soon.

One Response to Power-Up

  1. AxelMill98 says:

    Well, the Plasma thingie CAN be kinda useful. One bullet of it deals the same damage as the normal ones, but it shoots faster. You can defeat enemies and bosses fast, but you can die easily.

    Great review.

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