Star Runner

Have you ever thought you should dig out your old Game Boy and relive some old memories? Have you ever given thought to the idea that garage door openers and their one-button controls should also be able to play video games? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then do I have the game for you: Star Runner.

Their light-hearted advertisement.

Their light-hearted advertisement.

Unfortunately, Star Runner made me realize that there is a definite knack to recreating the Game Boy experience and that the guys at Revolvus do not have it. On the Game Boy you had a directional pad and two buttons to work with to create some fantastic experiences such as Wario Land, Link’s Awakening, and Kirby’s Dream Land. The creators of this game boiled what made the Game Boy great down to something between Tiger Electronics games and playing with a rock.

At the start this game had everything going for it to me: The devs seemed to have a sense of humor in their ad, it was $1, it had a female character, and she had pigtails. (Shut up, it doesn’t take much.) From the description of the game, things sounded like they were going to be great: You run from zombies, you run with parkour ninjas, and you collect pizzas from pizza delivery robots while jumping between planes that are flying in a very unsafe formation. I learned that last bit while attending a school known for its flight program. Hey, how do you know if a student is in aviation? They’ll tell you. (Go UND!)

The game itself is just flat out boring. There is only one thing you can do and that’s jump–jump over obstacles, jump over walls, and jump off the heads of other people. You’d think that with jumping being the only thing you’re able to do in the game, it would be very well refined. Nope. The hit detection when you land on an NPC, something vital to the first third of the game, is so horrible that you will constantly miss and wind up dead very quickly. It’s infuriating when, time after time, you feel as though you should have landed a jump yet wind up as zombie chow.

I tried this game three different times, and every attempt ended in a rage-quit, each caused by frustration at the jumping. My final and most ragey rage-quit happened during the ninja portion of the game. You follow a number of ninjas as they parkour their way over rooftops, timing your jumps with theirs to reach the end of each level. At first this was going better than the zombie area, and I thought that perhaps there was some enjoyment to be found in this title. That feeling faded instantly when I reached a section of the level that was completely obstructed from view, yet I was expected to avoid some obstacle. There was absolutely no way that I could discern when to jump to avoid a death caused by being unable to see my character. At that point it’s not even giving the player a chance, so I turned it off with a huff and promptly deleted the game.

I take it back. Even playing with a rock is more fun than playing this game. At least with a rock you could chuck it at some snobby aviation students.

xboxboxartStar Runner was developed by Revolvus.

At $1, you could buy batteries for your Tiger Electronics game at a discount store.


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.

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