We’re well accustomed to a Ratalaika Games title or ten. Popping up on a near weekly basis, if you spot a game with the Ratalaika publishing arm tagged, you pretty much know what to expect.
It’ll be fairly cheap, for one. Will probably come with a host of easy Xbox achievements. And is unlikely to offer up much going forward. Failing that, it’ll be a Visual Novel.
Occasionally though Ratalaika Games buck that trend, throwing out a game that is of higher quality than the others in their library. That in turn warrants a higher asking price.
The latest game of that nature is Remote Life. Originally created by Next Game Level, this is something that is at the higher end of the Ratalaika price scale. £14.99 is still fairly decent when you consider it in the grand scheme of things, but we’re not convinced that Remote Life has enough about it to warrant that charge.
A space-themed shoot ’em up running through an alien world, you should really know what to expect here. Mostly it plays out in a left-to-right scrolling fashion, leaving you to smash your way through hordes of enemies, dodging their fire and eventually taking down an end of stage boss. There are slight deviations from that formula, with more open, maze-like worlds and ‘protect’ levels interspersed, but that’s the main gist.
Taking charge of a small ship, with further slightly faster versions available behind progression unlocks, there’s nothing of major interest or excitement in Remote Life – you will want nothing more than to make it to the end of each stage, grab an Xbox achievement for doing so, and then move on to the next.
You certainly won’t bother about the story that is kicking around in the background, mostly as this is delivered disastrously. Played out via a combination of horrendous voice deliverance and boring text, at no point will you care for your reasons behind embarking on this adventure. In fact, we’ve found the occasional pop up of narrative to be a hindrance more than anything. Just let us go blasting.
We’ve also found Remote Life to feel unfair. Now that’s not a way of blaming the game for our lack of shmup skills – and this is definitely a tricky game – but when you’re trying to navigate a ship through the tightest of spaces, in the darkest of levels – and yes, we don’t just mean the stage that literally switches the lights off – before being hit left, right and centre by randomly occurring, fast spawning foes, there’s something not quite right about Remote Life.
It feels unfair to a point; the devs seemingly deciding that throwing enemy respawns right on top of you should be seen as some kind of challenge. It’s not, it’s annoying and it’s utterly frustrating. More so when you discover that whilst you, your ship and your bullets cannot penetrate solid structures, enemies can. Combine that with inaccurate hit detection and again things are far from perfect.
What is good about Remote Life though are the multitude of weapons you’ll find access to. Swiftly attainable through a press of your bumpers, three different weapon types can be placed on your ship at any one time – four if you include the variety of bombs and screen-clearing mega-weapons. Standard, default, unlimited firing versions fast make way for picked up, limited in time options, with all manner of greatness delivered from within their ammo blocks. The weapons bring some serious variety to the game too, with straight shooting peas replaced by swirling cannons of death. The fact that you can switch your ship cannons to fire in various directions via the right thumbstick adds to the madness.
Those pickups are plentiful too; a simple fly-by of your ship adds them in when you see fit. We’d possibly go as far to say that there are too many weapons to grab in any one stage, and occasionally you’ll prefer to fly on by instead of swapping out a preferred shooter. On the whole though, the twenty-or-so different weapon types that are present are a real highlight of Remote Life
The number of stages is appreciated too. This is far from one of those Ratalaika Games titles that will be over in twenty minutes, with well into double figure stages providing a test – both of your skills and your levels of frustration.
But again, it’s just all put together so shoddily. It’s too dark and dingy, menus are laid out in an uncomfortable fashion and we’ve lost count at the number of times we’ve hit B to go back, when we should be pressing the View button. What on earth is that all about!?
To give credit, work through those menus and you’ll discover some decent amendments that can be made to Remote Life – changes to the difficulty levels, the quality of on-screen effects, whether you get the added love of an enemy radar and the opportunity to run with some old school 8-bit and Arcade filters. They are nice to see included, if not anywhere near essential.
At the end of the day though, Remote Life is just an average side-scrolling shooter. It oversteps the line of frustration a few too many times to be classed as fun, and has some seriously weird, slightly concerning ‘features’ that bring it down. You’ll find the sheer number of weapons and stages welcome, but Remote Life just does not find a way to thrive in the darkness of space.
Remote Life is available from the Xbox Store