The idea of top-down, space-themed multiplayer shooter, Friday Night Bullet Arena, is a simple one. Grab a single rocket, hop into a small arena with up to three friends and be the last man standing!
Yep, it’s that simple. And there really isn’t anything else to it.
Because you see, Friday Night Bullet Arena won’t be worrying you about different gun types, and it won’t be worrying you about how to navigate your way round a massive arena. God damn, you won’t even have to concern yourself about which of the multitude of arenas to choose from either, because manual input in that regard has been completely omitted. Instead, you’re just left against your mates, trying to shoot one single rocket at them as accurately as possible, before grabbing it again to rinse and repeat. You may think that is a bit boring, and in a way, you’d be right, and so pushing them off the edge of the arena is another sure fire way of ensuring victory. But whichever route you choose to take, there isn’t a huge deal of joy to be found. That’s because In its most complex form, FNBA asks you to kill your friends just enough times in order to unlock further stages, grind away for as long as you can and then be crowned king of the Friday night!
And being king is all we want with life isn’t it? The grinding though? Meh.
The thing is, I want a ton more from my games. But before I get into the nitty gritty, the positives and the negatives, let me give you some basic knowledge about what is to hit you. Or at least try to, because at no point throughout my time of playing Friday Night Bullet Arena, have I been told why, when, how, or what I’m doing. There is no story, and there is no reason for getting involved, other than to waste a bit of a time during a Friday night drinking session with like minded mates. Even the ‘help’ option kindly left in the menus is bereft of details.
I’ll hit you with the best bits of Friday Night Bullet Arena first though, and that, without question, lies in the various arenas. With 250 odd variations of the same 6×6 tiled arenas (remember, none of which you can actually manually choose from), I have to give it to the team at Red Nexus Games, for creating enough variation to allow for a fair degree of intrigue. If only because as that intrigue rears its head you wonder what on earth else they could throw onto the scene. What starts off as a basic shell, complete with no obstacles, soon turns into a tactical battle of wit and cunning, bouncing your rockets off of pinball cushions, hopping on and off moveable blocks and seeing the entire arena begin to crumble around your very ears. Navigating your way round is easy, because you can only move up, down, left and right, one square at a time, but that turns it into a bit of a stodgy affair. The further you progress down the line of the numerous scenarios though, the better the variety in arena comes. I cannot complain one bit about the stages in which the battles commence as they do the job intended of them.
There is also a little bit of variety and amusement found in the characters which you’ll be using to dish out the damage to your opponents, with a decent amount all in place. Unfortunately, whilst they all come with silly names and even sillier visuals, each and every character rolls into battle in the exact same way. There is, for instance, no advantage in choosing ‘Lost Gary’ over ‘SASSCII’, or the tentacle looking ‘Squidge’ instead of ‘A Alligator’ – nope, that’s not a typo, that’s his actual name. And this is a massive disappointment as even the smallest change to each of their movement or shooting powers would have allowed for a bit of a reason to mix things up a bit.
But there isn’t and that proves a massive sticking point.
You see, the problem with Friday Night Bullet Arena is the very limited draw. With no A.I. bots included, no solo option and no chance of taking the bullet firing action online, you really do need at least one mate sitting alongside you in order to enjoy anything it has to throw at you. Even then, it is seriously limited and it isn’t until you manage to coerce two or three more friends into the action, when Friday Night Bullet Arena actually starts to live up to its billing. Or at least it tries to.
Again still, with four players in situ, the overall appeal of FNBA is severely lacking – and whilst a beer or five may just help prolong your game time, chances are ten or fifteen minutes in is about as far as you’re likely to go. Unless you’re specifically playing the game in order to pick up those glorious achievements and gamerscore, in which case, it delivers in spades, should you not mind a massive amount of grinding.
The thing is, these local multiplayer battle arena type games are all well and good, but there really does need to be something to compliment the repetition of the action – a second or third mode if you will. And Friday Night Bullet Arena, for all its many arenas and characters, doesn’t ever have that.
Further negative thoughts surround the movement, something which is dodgy at best and you’ll quickly have to learn that whilst the left thumbstick is able to move your character, the stop-go stuttering nature of the movement is much more suited to the d-pad. But I hate using my d-pad, and so Red Nexus are putting me on the back foot straight away.
Firing your rocket is simple enough though, with a press of any of the face buttons or by pushing a direction on the right stick actioning a bit of destruction. But other than frantically hopping around the stage in order to pick up your wayward bullet in order to fire it again, that’s about it for Friday Night Bullet Arena.
As you would probably expect from an indie local multiplayer only title, the visuals are pretty basic and whilst they do a job, they are nothing to write home about. The audio which accompanies it though is pretty special, mixing things up depending on your place of battle and delivering some crackingly addictive tunes. But that only really papers over the cracks which have formed from lack of content. But, if you’re looking for a game that will allow you to have a bit of a laugh with a few mates prior to getting busy on the decent stuff, then by all means stick a couple of dollars each into the kitty, and look forward to the 20 minutes of so of fun you’re going to get.
Otherwise, Friday Night Bullet Arena falls short in many areas.