A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks! is a bargain-bin game that belongs on the top shelf.
Boom! A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks! blasted its way onto the minis platform right before the holidays, which means our lazy asses were too busy eating and drinking ourselves into a coma to even look at our minis review queue. After being politely reminded of our jobs by a PR Manager representing the game, I copied A Space Shooter to my PSPgo and started out on one of the most kick-ass shmup adventures I’ve had in a while. The opening cinematic assured me that this game is something special. It’s fully voice acted, the dialogue is hilarious, and the characters are more robust than their 2-dimensional artstyle might lead you to believe. In terms of gameplay, I got more than the typical shmup experience from A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks. Instead, I was taken on what director Richard Fleischer or rapper Coolio might call a fantastic voyage (former; latter).
The comical, comic book style cutscenes set the stage for one of my favorite video game characters to date: Commander P. Jefferson. As CPJ, you pilot the USS Eradicator, hell-bent on destroying every alien life form in the galaxy. Aiding in your quest is the ship’s AI, Edgar IV. As I mentioned before, all of the main characters in the game have voice actors. Jefferson’s Deathspank/Patrick Warburton-esque demeanor plays perfectly opposite the proper, Jeevesy Edgar IV. The main bosses talk, too, and their interactions with our protagonist prove humorous, as well. After the introduction, you’re taken to the game’s main menu: Campaign, Survival, Achievements, Options, Credits.
Upon starting the campaign, you’re shown a map of space with different photos tacked to it. Each photo represents a playable sector, and each mugshot represents a sector with a main boss at the end. Each sector has a difficulty rating, and you don’t have to progress linearly. The sectors without mugshots do have bosses, but they’re not characters (voiced, etc.). Regardless, they are challenging and useful to complete to accrue remnants and hull upgrades (max health increases). Destroying enemies leaves remnants in their wake. Remnants = currency, and at any time you can visit the shop and purchase ship upgrades. What’s cool is that the shop isn’t just a series of menus. Rather, there’s a shopkeeper (Jenna Velasquez), and everytime you visit the shop, Jefferson and Jenna exchange words. Similar exchanges occur between bosses and CPJ. One boss exclaims, “You have blood on your hands, madness in your head, evil in your heart, and lust in your groin.” One of the coolest features of A Space Shooter is its special weapons. There are powerups that float by while playing that slow time, upgrade your cannons, etc. That’s nothing new, really. What is new, though, is that by defeating a main boss, you earn its special weapon in a Mega Man-like fashion. In every subsequent sector, you can press R or L to switch between the special weapons you’ve acquired. Each weapon has its own energy bar, and there are powerups and upgrades to help fill them back up if they’re depleted. Odds are they’ll become depleted often, as A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks! is not an easy game.
I completed the game on Competent difficulty and died a bunch of times along the way. The controls are tight, and I even found myself often using the analog nub to move my ship, something I usually shy away from in shmups. Besides for the drab backdrops, the graphics are good. I know it’s set in space, but a bit of environmental variety would be nice (see: Truxton). The loading times are short, and some show a picture of CPJ with a thoughtful twist on a popular quote (ex. “Never put off killing till tomorrow an alien you can kill today”). To keep you from rage-quitting, the game has a fair checkpoint system in place. If you die, you respawn at an earlier point in the level. If you die during a boss battle, you’re brought back to the moment before the battle starts. What’s also nice is that all of the remnants gained up to the point of your death stay with you when you respawn or even if you quit out of the sector. That means that if you’re having a tough time in a certain sector, you can quit, purchase some upgrades, then retry with a more equipped ship. It’s a friendly feature that allows the game to be fun for even the most mediocre of shmup players.
I did run into a serious issue with the game. After beating a sector, a pen crosses off the tacked up photo. What happened to me a few times was upon moving the cursor, the “X” was removed from the photo. I lost all remnants salvaged from the mission, the special weapon I had obtained, and all of the achievements I unlocked while playing in that sector. For all intents and purposes, the game didn’t save. This happened to me upwards of seven times while playing through the game, including after beating the final boss. I saw the end cutscene, watched the credits, but when I returned to the Campaign screen the final boss was still undefeated. It’s not quite a gamebreaker since the game is so much fun, but it’s pretty annoying to lose the hundreds of thousands of points gained and time spent in a sector. It also happened to me while I was playing Survival mode for 45 minutes. What’s cool about the Survival mode is that all of the remnants gained carry over to the campaign. The problem is I’m hesitant to play for elongated periods of time for fear of my progress being discounted.
All in all, A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks! is a bargain-bin game that belongs on the top shelf. In the same way that it did with its previous title, Young Thor, Frima have raised the bar for games on the minis platform. Along with its juvenile sense of humor, there are a handful of gameplay twists that make A Space Shooter an absolute joy to play. Like Young Thor, there are a host of achievements that are actually fun to unlock. There are a ton of shooters on the PSN (many of them minis), and A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks! is one of the best. Who’s That Flying?! is a great game, don’t get me wrong, but it would be silly to pass up on this gem of a shmup. If it weren’t for the slippery save bug, I’d give it 5 stars. In summation, I’d have to quote Commander P. Jefferson in saying, “that was definitely worth 2 bucks!”
For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Portable version of the game.
What I Like:
What I Dislike: