Score Rush... Laughingly Easy!

Friday, December 31, 2010
By: Matthew Doucette

Score Rush... it's laughingly easy!

(Just picking on a bad review here. As an indie game devleoper, we get to do that!)

"The bosses have predetermined patterns (as do other enemies) and after a few games become almost laughingly easy, assuming you can dodge their endless barrage of bullets." -

Score Rush in INSANE mode. Look how easy the predetermined boss patterns are!

Misunderstanding Explained:

Back to seriousness and honesty:

I misread the quote above, but that doesn't save it. It was only the predetermined movement patterns that were labelled as "laughingly easy", not the bosses themselves. But still, the emotional (laughing) response to how easy the supposed-to-be-easy boss movements are and no mention of the ridiculously hard supposed-to be-hard bullet patterns? It shows a disconnect between reviewer and game. Why would someone comment on enemy patterns in any scrolling shmup, let alone a bullet hell one? It makes no sense. So I am diving into it here. This issue highlights Score Rush's in-game memo to all gamers and gamer reviewers:

"I consider shmups to be the last real classic game genre still alive - games in which score, skill, technique, replayability, and finely honed 2-dimensional gameplay are all-important.

Shmups can be picked up for 10 minutes, and enjoyed fully in that space of time. They can literally last for decades. Perfect for modern busy lifestyles I reckon - a short, intense burst of pure gameplay. But they're often severely misunderstood by today's gamers ("repetitive, easy to credit feed to the end, all you do is shoot!"). Well, their loss!" - Malc,

In Trace Aber's defense, who I appreciate for the review and coverage (no bad blood here at all), I believe the comment on the easy movement patterns was made because he was expecting something different. He admitted not being a shmup fan at heart, and did not grow up playing them. So where does his education on shmups come from? Your guess is as good as mine, but complicated movement patterns are found in arena style games, like Geometry Wars:

Me playing Geometry Wars 1, actually causing slowdown syndrome! Point is: Difficult enemy movement patterns.

I believe Trace incorrectly expected, and therefore incorrectly judged, Score Rush as an arena-based game. Imagine if you were to do so: The movement patterns would appear lame, because they are simple, and the bullet hell patterns would appear as lame attempt to make the game cooler.

The mistake is that Score Rush is not Geometry Wars. It's more Raiden or Cave or even Gradius. Just because we have neon graphics with multidirectional controls does not make Score Rush an arena shmup. Far from it. Art style and controls do not define a game. Score Rush is the world's first widescreen bullet hell dual-stick shmup. I would have been impressed if any reviewer recognized and noted that. A huge amount of respect would have come their way from me. Most game reviewers do not know shmups. A hardcore shmup fan knows they have never played anything like Score Rush before. And it's a scrolling shmup (which we admit is hard to see). The shmup genre was the top video game genre in the late 80's to the early 90's, and with that it grew, evolved, and matured. It takes a lot of knowledge to understand that maturity.

Interestingly, the multidirectional controls in Score Rush were born out of necessity due to the widescreen which is uncommon in slow moving bullet hell style games. Usually bullet hells are 3:4 screen (rotated 4:3 screens), which is far from a 16:9 it terms of left-to-right area you must cover:

16:9 widescreen versus a standard 3:4 (titled 4:3) screen common in shmups.

If you move slow, as you  must in a bullet hell, and only shoot upward, how can you cover a widescreen? Our solution was dual-stick controls. Again, a reviewer noting this would have amazed me. A reviewer noting that the bullets are drawn on top of the HUD, because they are the single most important thing on the screen to see, would have also amazed me. That's the difference between seeing our "bullet hell" as a cheesy add-on to Geometry Wars or truly understanding and respecting the nature of shmups and the attention to detail Score Rush has.

All that said, Score Rush has its flaws, but we want to be judged on what we are, not what we are not. The last thing we want to be is a Geometry Wars clone. They all fail at it. Geometry Wars is too good. Maybe someday Xona Games will tackle that (would love to) but now's not the time!



See how easy it is to be misjudged? There are two lessons to be learned:

  1. Reviewers need to educate themselves, and take pride in that education. There's a reason Score Rush is one of the top rated games in Japan. This should cause pause in an negative opinion on the game. It should inspire extra insight on the game to determine what's so special about it, if anything at all. If you are not a shmup fan, you should educate yourself before doing a review on one, or at least spell out your biased standpoint. Honesty and depth of review is what is expected. This applies to all genres. A reviewer's job is not easy, and I know they get backlogged, just like news reporters. But the depth and understanding of the coverage is always appreciated, by gamers and game developers alike.
  2. Game developers, that's us!, need to accept the ignorance of reviewers who are unfamiliar with the game genre in question. And by "ignorance" I mean this is the technical sense not the insulting sense. Ignorance is lack of knowledge or understanding, and it's everywhere. We are all ignornant. Game developers must make games that cater to quick judgment calls from casual gamers and reviewers. It may prove tough to square that circle. Only a few shmups have accomplished such a task as capturing respect from the casual gamer: Geometry Wars, Ikaruga, and company.

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 $190,000 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.