Soldner X-2 Review
Shoot ’em up games are hard to perfect. Everything is important to consider (difficulty, graphical style, etc.) and Soldner X-2 Final Prototype nails most of of them. However, some things weigh it down to make the experience far less than stellar.
Soldner X-2 starts off with a story cutscene in which nothing really important is said. You’re a fighter pilot going up against a large alien threat; the D’aarg. You must defend the human race and win the fight against the aliens. It’s nothing special, and just gives you a reason for blasting down thousands of alien ships.
The gameplay is where the game really starts to shine. At the beginning you have 2 different ships to pick from. Both have different weapons from guns that just shoot regular bullets all the way to magma cannons. The shooting is standard shoot ’em up action. The game is a part of the ‘bullet hell’ sub-genre and executes in very well. Patterns are difficult but not impossible to dodge and create a tense feeling of excitement and fun. Also, all of the weapons handle nicely and are fun to use. Swapping weapons in the middle of combat is made incredibly easy allowing you to exploit the weaknesses of enemies. The gameplay is fun and feels incredibly polished.
Power-ups are no commodity in Soldner, which is a definite plus. As I played through the game enemies would drop little colorful orbs that give me a power up. These would most often be little ships called chasers that would follow me around and fire off its own bullets to aid the fight. Little things like these helped a ton. Also, when most enemies are killed, they drop golden rings à la Sonic the Hedgehog. These rings accumulate in the chain meter at the bottom right of the screen. Once filled the meter will dispense a score bonus, a power up, or even a new weapon for your ship. Not collecting rings for a certain period of time will cause the meter to go down which can make things both tense and exciting.
The game’s novelty and what sets it apart from the rest is its adaptive difficulty system. This changes the difficulty of the game as you play to best suit you. So if you haven’t been touched by a bullet for the whole level the difficulty will increase and if you’re being decimated by enemies it’ll decrease. It’s incredibly seamless and works great. Playing in higher difficulties will also get you an increased multiplier for better scores. Incentives like this make the game even more fun and enjoyable to score chase.
After playing for about 35-40 minutes I beat the boss of the fourth stage. Expecting to move on to the next level I was instead greeted by a credits roll. Shocked, I waited for the game to turn back to the main menu. Yep, the main game only takes you through four stages initially. Levels 5-7 are unlockable from finding secret keys which drop from certain enemies as you traverse levels, and 8-10 are DLC. There is a major lack of content in this game which can’t be ignored. For a ten dollar game (5 dollars for the 3 DLC levels) this is clearly not enough content for a main story mode.
The game tries to make up for this with a challenge mode. In the challenge mode there are variations of the main game that either put restrictions or give you a certain goal to do in a level or series of levels. My problem with this is that most are poorly constructed and are just bad ideas. Challenges can be incredibly hard, very long or very short. Very short can be an issue when you consider the amount of time it takes to get into the game. Between every challenge there is a beginning cutscene, a loading period, the actual challenge, and finally an ending cutscene. For a challenge that is “Last for 150 seconds-with out losing any health” you would imagine dying and restarting pretty quickly. Instead you watch “Challenge Failed” flash in your face for five seconds, watch a cutscene, and try again. It’s a miserable cycle, and turned me off for the challenges almost completely.
Bad things aside the game runs smoothly. Yes, it is a PS3 port, but nothing is lost in the transfer from console to mobile. The game runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second with wonderful graphics to boot. For a shoot ’em up especially, frame-rate is important and Soldner does great in getting the Vita to do 60 FPS.
Soldner X-2 was an enjoyable experience, even if it was short. The gameplay is fun and the adaptive difficulty really makes the game great. However, the lack of content and poor challenge mode really bring the game down. All in all the gameplay is so strong that I want to recommend it, but there are too many problems for Soldner to be a worthy purchase.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Difficulty System
- Gorgeous graphics
- Lots of variety in weapons and power-ups
What I Dislike:
- Challenge mode leaves much to be desired.
- Story mode overall too short.