Hop on your hoverboard and load up your spaceship, it’s time to blast our way out of Factor City in Bitmaster, the latest game published by Sometimes You. In this twin-stick shooter, you’ll need to survive wave after wave of shape-based enemies to charge your spaceship, reach the Fourth Wall and escape the city.
Is it worth braving the onslaught?
To be frank, there are few positives about this game. The best thing I can say is that it controls well, and the shooting mechanics are top-notch (even if you need to use the bumpers to shoot). It’s all downhill from there.
It would be unfair to say that Bitmaster is devoid of any good ideas though. The fact that RNG is the core component of the gameplay is certainly an interesting one. In each wave, you’ll be given two random modifiers that will dictate your performance – these range from perks such as increased fire-rate or movement speed, to debuffs such as a drain to your shield or life-force. Upgrades to your firepower are treated in the same way, with new weaponry unlocking completely randomly.
And this system does work effectively at times. In the first three or four playthroughs of Bitmaster, the sheer randomness really helps inject some variety into what is a very simplistic game at its core. It promotes mixing up your playstyle as the buffs and debuffs work their magic. And it prevents an over-reliance on one weapon; a common problem with other wave-based shooters.
Unfortunately, the bland and uninspired level and enemy design effectively kills any replayability you might have gotten out of the RNG-based gameplay. It boasts of having twenty different enemy types, yet this seems a little disingenuous when most amount to a white shape that might or might not shoot out a few bullets. Meanwhile, a typical Bitmaster level consists of a big square box with a few maze-like elements in the middle.
You can only shoot white triangles so many times until the entire thing gets extremely repetitive, tedious and boring.
It turns out that the RNG ends up really hampering the gameplay in other areas too; most notably that the bosses that you’ll face after every twenty waves are random. There are five you could end up facing, and each one is hard enough on their own. Add in the fact that you don’t know which one you’ll be facing until you’re dropped in the arena, and the fact that you only get one attempt to beat it, and the entire thing seems ludicrously unfair.
To add insult to injury, the perk system can end up sabotaging you within the fights. For example, if you happen to be unlucky enough to get the debuff that drains your health in the waves just before the fight, you’ll have to battle the boss with whatever health you happen to have.
When you die, it’s straight back to wave one. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if not for the fact that Bitmaster’s waves are way too long. Blame the level design. Not only are they unnecessarily huge, but poor pathing means that enemies tend to get stuck within the maze-like hallways of levels.
The final major issue with Bitmaster is the fact that it’s a terribly balanced game. You’ll find that things will start off relatively easy, with only a few basic enemies to contend with. In fact, it’s almost too easy. It’s entirely possible to go through the first ten or so waves without taking a single hit.
But then instead of getting gradually harder, it’s like a switch suddenly flips.
The game jacks it up to eleven. More and more enemies flood the arena almost instantaneously. The mini-map descends into a mess of colourful dots, so much that you can’t move for polygons and projectiles. It’s almost as if Bitmaster realises you’re doing quite well and decides to artificially inflate the difficulty as a way to cheaply trip you up. If anything, the fact that you don’t even need to kill any of these newly spawned enemies to clear a wave is proof enough that this is the case.
So what do we have with Bitmaster? An uninspired wave-survival shooter with bland enemy and level design, significant balancing issues and a real lack of replayability – you’ll only need to play through it about four times and you’ll have seen just about everything Bitmaster really has to offer. It’s a shame because Bitmaster actually controls really well and the RNG gameplay could have been the foundation for something fun and replayable. Ultimately, I’d recommend giving this one a miss.
Bitmaster is currently available for both Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One users – find it on the Xbox Store