Sometimes a genre gets so overloaded with titles of an extremely similar nature that it starts to become harder and harder to find games that stand out, or at the very least games that feel like something you haven’t played before. One of the worst genres to suffer from this problem is the twin-stick shooter. Maybe it’s because they’re easy to make, maybe it’s because there’s only so much you can do with such a rigidly defined genre, but it has been years since innovation was common with twin-stick shooters.
Son of Scoregasm is a sequel to the 2012 game Scoregasm, and much like its predecessor, it’s a twin-stick shooter. The game is based around the King of the Earth asking you to recover his stolen biscuit tin and you shooting your way through space baddies to get it back. There are 28 levels of varying types and difficulties. Sometimes it’s a straight-up fight in a different shaped arena, sometimes there’s a strange gimmick, like having to shoot a spiky cylinder before it crushes you.
The game has a somewhat similar minimalistic design as a lot of twin-stick shooters, such as geometry wars. Most of the enemies and level elements are rendered in simple lines and colours, and the backgrounds are mainly differently coloured variations of the ‘blank expanse of space’.
The levels can be performed in a somewhat random order, as when you finish each level you are given an option between two different level exits, an orange one and a green one. The green exits lead you down a less difficult path, the orange down a more difficult path. The only parallel that springs to mind is the way that you selected your story progression in ‘Shadow the Hedgehog’, of all things.
The reason for this odd comparison is because although there are only two level exits, there are more than two paths to take. If you alternate between taking the harder and easier paths, you’ll end up playing different levels than you would if you chose all orange consistently or all green consistently. This does give the game some replay value but also sort of just comes across as a way of extending the pretty small playtime.
Once you’ve unlocked a level, you can go back to it whenever you like. The issue is that to unlock every level, you’re going to end up playing through a fair amount of them twice just so you can unlock all of the levels. This turns what might have been a feature to differentiate the game in a saturated market into a grinding chore which forces you to replay a level, whether you actively enjoyed it or not.
This problem is compounded by the difficulty of some of the game’s levels and how frustrating it can be to get through them all. Obviously, the game’s difficulty is a major factor for a lot of ‘hardcore’ shooter fans out there, and Son of Scoregasm has it in spades. This difficulty becomes frustrating, despite the relative shortness of the entire experience. You’ll feel like you’ve been plugging away at a level for hours when in reality it’s been a few minutes, and this makes it difficult to want to keep playing the game.
One of the strangest differences between this and other twin-stick games and shoot-em-ups in general is the fact that there is a huge focus on the use of bombs, or in this case, pulses. Most of the time these bombs are used sparingly to save yourself from a hail of bullets or a swarm of enemies, but in Son of Scoregasm you’re encouraged to practically use them at every available opportunity. You recharge your pulse attack and increase your weapon spread when you kill enemies, and then you can use your pulses to massacre enemies en-masse, also increasing your score multiplier through the roof.
Obviously, the high scores are a massive part of the appeal of the game, if the name wasn’t a big giveaway. The use of pulse attacks is the best way of increasing your multiplier, which affects how much of a ridiculous score you end up getting, and you are encouraged to try and build on your insane scores by replaying levels to get enough points to earn each level’s medals. The issue is that the game is frustrating, and despite having a few level gimmicks, offers nothing over other, more well-established twin-stick shooters.
Developer: R.C. Knight
Publisher: Charlie’s Games
Platforms: PS Vita, PC
Release Date: 29th November 2017