Friday, March 11, 2011
By: Matthew Doucette
Here is the review in full (some links added by us):
SCORE RUSH is a 4-player shoot 'em up. Features overwhelming firepower, trailing options, full screen bombs, tons of enemies, with an intimidating final boss and hundreds of crazy bullet patterns to survive. The 60 fps adrenaline-rush experience is complemented by a hard-rocking DRAGON MUSIC soundtrack. Designed by XONA GAMES "empower the player" philosophy. Uses award-winning DUALITY ZF engine.
In 2008, Xona Games released an alpha demo Video of Duality: ZF, the Developer's much publicized 4-player shooter and frequent indie game contest entrant. Two years later and counting, we've yet to see Xona Games release its first announced indie game, but at least we can now see and play what's in store whenever Duality: ZF does finally ship. Score Rush is a vertical scrolling shooter built with the Duality: ZF engine, a self described "bullet hell" shooter which takes players through an intense gauntlet of non-stop action. Despite my ever waning patience for the release of 3D Realms' Xona Games's habitual zombie shooter, the quality of Score Rush's exhilarating gameplay has rekindled my anticipation for Duality: ZF and has proven that the indie Developer can hold its own among the best of the genre.
One to four players can attack the game at once, grabbing power-ups and options to boost their firepower to stand a chance against the constant onslaught from above. The enemies of Score Rush never let up, and the journey to reach and take down Boss A is an exhausting one. The barely identifiable nine levels are alphabetically reversed labeled from I to A, with each lettered level consisting of a few drones to take down before the boss fight commences. Completing the game unlocks a new, more challenging difficulty setting -- Normal, Hard, Expert, Crazy, Insane, and Godlike -- which brings with it more intricate bullet patterns and tougher bosses, but only the best will be able to see through the entirety of that progression. Score Rush's starting mode of play is tough as nails, and with only three lives and no continues, wet paper bags who like to continue rather than shoot their way through the genre are out of luck this time. There are no ways to earn extra lives nor replenish the stock of bombs, death bringing players to the local high score table to see where they rank. The meek need not apply, because if the difficulty alone doesn't get them, then the crazy, distracting visuals will.
Gameplay is unquestionably Score Rush's best feature, but its graphics are arguably the weakest. Though I've been unable to play the game with four players firing at once, I've not see any slowdown in with two players despite the plethora of bullets drenching the screen. Then again, there's not much to the visuals beyond the game's four-colored bullets and lasers. The player ships themselves are rather plain looking, and the enemies alternate between lumpy marshmallows and orange slices. Score Rush feels a good bit like Mars Matrix in that regard, itself a fantastic shooter with humdrum enemy design where the opposition feels like little more than placeholders for players to train their lasers upon. The background graphics are rather dull looking, consisting of a pretty, watery effect which simply shifts coloring from level to level. The constant shifting background "webbing," while never overpowering the action on the forefront, still adds a needless layer of distraction to an already hectic game bursting with action. Awesome explosion effects threaten to break the display while lasers litter the screen, emitting huge sparks when connecting with an enemy, draping the dark background in a nonstop color shower. Despite the simplistic and uninspired approach to the game's graphics, Score Rush is a beautiful experience, Xona Games so intent on taking the gameplay of the genre and distilling it to its core with no time to focus on dressing up the output of its efforts.
Score Rush may at first be dismissed as a twinstick shooter, and it's easy to understand why. Unlike most scrolling shooters, players can aim their shots with the right analog stick, allowing the ship to attack anything anywhere without having to move directly in front of it. If feels a bit odd to play a traditional shooter like this, having to sweep and aim with the right stick to pick off the gnats while focusing on navigating the tightly woven bullet streams, but the game controls fine aside from some potential sensitivity issues inherent with the analog control notwithstanding (Score Rush supports digital control for movement but not for shooting). Despite the 360 degree aim, players will always shoot northward as enemies do not spawn all over the screen as in a proper twinstick shooter; though the dark, wavy background makes it difficult to see the constant progression as in any other vertical shoot-em up, Score Rush owes more to DoDonPachi than it does Geometry Wars. Beyond the control, Score Rush is a fairly standard shooter with players blasting enemies and collecting power-ups to increase their firepower and bouncing from one boss to the next without ever letting up, true to its name. Minor deviations to the formula including letting players rob teammates of their power-ups as well as maxed out players dissolving nearby bullets when grabbing more power-ups along with the stock of lives being shared among all players are nice wrinkles to the formula, but by and large Score Rush sticks to its vertical shooter template including bombs, enemies releasing power-ups, and the kinds of bullet patterns seen throughout the game.
Score Rush is a blistering shooter, a perfect pick-me-up complimented by an equally intense music by Nick Dragonas and his excellent, original heavy metal soundtrack. While the music inevitably gets washed away by players' focus on what's on screen, it's still great music for a great game. Score Rush opens with a quote from Malc pulled straight from his SHMUPS! website, stating among other things that "Shmups can be picked up for 10 minutes, and enjoyed fully in that space of time." It reads like a mission statement, and Score Rush plays true to its genre's purported purpose. It's got action galore to satisfy the desire for instant gratification, and though I'll be lucky to make it through Expert one day, the quick start and terrific gameplay will ensure I will try often. While the weak style of the graphics, the lack of on-line leaderboards (still, Xona?), and the never let up pacing will set the game back for some to varying degrees, Score Rush is an awesome shooter not to be missed.
March 11, 2011
September 12, 2010
A Note of Appreciation:
Ben of XBLIG.co is one of the few reviewers to understand and appreciate that Score Rush is not a dual-stick arean shmup, like Geometry Wars, but instead is a 2D overhead view scrolling bullet hell shmup that happens to have dual-stick controls. There is much difference between an arean shmup that shoots no bullets and a scrolling shmup that shoots so many bullets that people coin it "bullet hell". Read Score Rush... Laughingly Easy! for a thorough break down of what Score Rush truly is.
That is all.
About the Author: I am Matthew Doucette of Xona Games, an award-winning indie game studio that I founded with my twin brother. We make intensified arcade-style retro games. Our business, our games, our technology, and we as competitive gamers have won prestigious awards and received worldwide press. Our business has won $180,000 in contests. Our games have ranked from #1 in Canada to #1 in Japan, have become #1 best sellers in multiple countries, have won game contests, and have held 3 of the top 5 rated spots in Japan of all Xbox LIVE indie games. Our game engines have been awarded for technical excellence. And we, the developers, have placed #1 in competitive gaming competitions -- relating to the games we make. Read about our story, our awards, our games, and view our blog.