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What would you get if you took some of today's notable celebrities, coupled them with some internet memes, and decided to make a shoot ‘em up? You would likely end up with Shooting Stars!, a satire filled Indie game from developers Bloodirony. Its premise is simple. You are the hero Tscherno who, armed with a laser shooting cat and a hoverboard, is on a mission to take down the aliens who have disguised themselves as popular celebrities.
Originally a mobile game, this is a direct port with the only change being the method of control to either keyboard, mouse or if you’d prefer, a joypad. The joypad may be a little overkill as you can quite happily get away with any of the other two and not have your ability hampered. One key shoots, the other is responsible for your super weapon and then there are inputs for movement. You can choose to play either the game’s main game or the daily run.
The main game lines up a different set of six bosses to beat with the last one always being Nuck Chorris. Each of these bosses are mock pop-culture icons or internet sensations. There’s a little bit of dialogue each time between you and your next main enemy, some are funny and others less so. In our opinion the game could quite happily do without these little intro screens, given they get a little tiresome after a few run throughs; or at least we would like an option to turn them off.
Once the action kicks off enemies will come down from above and are a mix, again, of modern items, memes and so on from the last few years. Horsehead clad minions, autonomous drones and so on. However, the number and types of attacks these enemies use are unfortunately limited, and after a playthrough or two you’ll have them mostly memorised. Whilst nothing new for the genre if you keep your eyes peeled for power ups, which come in the form of edible foodstuffs, your character can quickly become an all powerful harbinger of doom. Shooting Stars! doesn’t mix it up enough in this arena to be difficult and yet, it somehow becomes rather addictive.
You want to get higher combos, you want to collect the cards that randomly drop, you want to see the other powerups and, most of all, you want to see how far you can go after you beat the main game. It’s one of those strange situations where a game, which isn’t that great, gives so much back because it has that “just one more game” factor. Whilst it won’t keep you playing it forever it’s enough to make the investment in the game worthwhile. Adding to this is the daily run where there is a set line of bosses which, along with the rest of the world, you can take it on and see how far you can go. With global leaderboards for this and the main game mode it really does encourage you to keep having a go if only to one up a friend or move up the leaderboards.
Shooting Stars! jumps on the 8-bit art style bandwagon which given the subject matter at hand suits it perfectly. It’s silly, fun and along with the bright colours used just makes the insanity that little bit cuter. The gameplay is buttery smooth and the sounds of the laser fire are exactly we’d expect to hear if cats could, in fact, fire lasers from their eyes. Along with a techno sounding soundtrack the game really pulls together nicely. Though all is not perfect. We often found that some of Tscherno’s super weapons took over so much of the screen which, with the accompanying screen shake, made dodging enemy fire almost impossible.
Given the number of lives you start with, a maximum of three, and that you lose half of one with each piece of enemy fire you take it can make the later levels that bit harder. This is compounded when, early on before any special modifiers are applied, the chance of extra health being dropped is a relatively rare event. We can appreciate that getting the mix between lives given and the strength of your protagonist is a tough one to get right but one can’t help but wonder whether this is a deliberate mechanic for future playthroughs when enemies drop lives like they’re going out of fashion. Whilst this then makes sense it still doesn’t detract from how annoying it is to take a hit when your combo is at 499.
All-in-all Shooting Stars! is a fun game to play. It’s not an instant classic nor does it do anything beyond its subject matter to make it stand out from the crowd. It’s fun and irreverent humour will likely strike a chord with some and for those it doesn’t you're shooting lasers from a cat’s eyes! Everyone has a game or two like this in their collection. It’s the game you turn to when you want to load something up for a quick blast and not visit it otherwise for days if not months. It’s here that Shooting Stars! finds its home and if your library is looking a little light in that area you can do a lot worse.