Things aren’t looking good for Earth. Ten-thousand alien spacecraft have emerged from a portal in space and they quickly overcome humanity. Whoever’s not dead is quickly enslaved, as the aliens turn us into space-glue (probably). The tiniest sliver of hope comes from seven ships and their elite pilots, who are looking to scuttle the alien fleet and take Earth back. You could almost call it a Super Rebellion.
Ten-thousand-against-seven sounds like Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia-sized odds. But we’ve seen Independence Day. We know what can happen when you get a small number of humans fighting together.
Super Rebellion is a vertical shooter, and it’s not so hot at things like ‘ambition’. All it’s concerned about is throwing waves of spaceships at you, plus the occasional boss, in the effort to see if you can weave and blast your way through five levels. It’s one of the most conventional vertical shooters out there, in fact. As we flick through our mental rolodex, we can’t remember one that stuck to formula as much as Super Rebellion. If innovation is your thing, you might be disappointed.
After picking your spaceship and pilot, you choose from the three different difficulties (Easy is a cinch, with more lives and continues than you could possibly need; Hard is about right for shooter veterans). Then you’re straight into some poorly translated cutscenes and the game proper.
Your ship moves around on the left-stick, and RT sends a continuous volley of bullets at the enemies. In pure on-the-sticks terms, it’s rather good, and you can duck and weave to the degree that you’d want.
Curiously, your basic fire doesn’t get upgraded over the course of Super Rebellion. There’s no ever-increasing power-levels, or array of weapon pick-ups. Instead, there are three smart-bomb like collectibles that you can activate once: a shield for when the bullet hell gets too hellish; a torpedo that crawls slowly up the screen before exploding; and the best of the bunch, a temporary multi-bullet firefest which can absolutely chews through the enemies in front of you.
But they are temporary, and you have to grab the surprisingly rare pick-ups to use them. What this means is that your dinky ship is stuck on the runty side, firing limited volleys at the enemy. As a result, we never felt overpowered or like an R-Type colossus at any point. In fact, we felt rather pathetic, dribbling on our enemies in the hope of killing them. It made us realise that, yes, it is important to have an ever-changing arsenal in a shoot ’em up – particularly if the default isn’t that great to begin with,
When enemies pop they release stars and, as far as we can tell, these represent an addition to the player’s score and an ever-increasing health pool. And that’s the limit of the on-screen interest and mechanics in Super Rebellion. There’s nothing more that a player can do, collect or strategise with. It is, as a result, not enough, and we were checking through the in-game menu to see if we missed something. These are slim pickings indeed.
The enemies aren’t much better, unfortunately. There’s a Flash-game look to a lot of the art in Super Rebellion. It took us back to playing shooters on Kongregate or Miniclip, and they didn’t look too dissimilar to what’s here. It’s not meant as a compliment, we’re afraid: all of the enemies are flat, metallic geometric shapes, lacking in any real interest. You could have chopped pieces off Robocop and thrown them at us, and it would have looked remarkably similar to Super Rebellion.
The variety comes a cropper, as a result. Each level has a boss and a unique enemy – the achievements curiously call them ‘objects’ – but the vast proportion of Super Rebellion, something like 90% of the playtime, is firing at the same five enemies. And they don’t act particularly differently either. They either swoop or fire, while a couple manage to do both. The objects and bosses are a little more interesting, working on a rota that involves bullet-hells, swoops across the screen and criss-crossing lasers. But they’re all used once and once only, as Super Rebellion is perfectly happy – unwisely, we may add – to keep to its extremely limited cast.
Levels are blank, continuous crawls, with only one level really mixing it up (some cosmic space hoops got us playing a spaceship-based game of Downfall, if you remember the old board game). And then, after five levels have been trawled through, humanity has emerged victorious, a couple of celebratory cutscene screens play, and Super Rebellion is done. There are no additional modes to play through; no achievements tempt you to play differently; and the characters aren’t different enough to generate interest. If you played on something less than Hard, you will have one more achievement to unlock, but otherwise there is no longevity to be had at all. Or, at least, none that we could find. And we certainly weren’t motivated by the photocopied levels.
As a single-developer game, Super Rebellion is plenty to be proud of. The controls work fine, there is a sheen to the presentation, and we found ourselves compelled – just about – to reach the end and see how humanity fared.
But we can go no further than that. Because Super Rebellion is – in shoot ’em up terms – the bare minimum. The five levels don’t do anything to distinguish themselves from each other, and you’ll be seeing its five enemies more often than you might like. A lack of power-ups and pick-ups make the action one-note, and no modes tempt you to play more than once. This is a one-way ticket through five vertically scrolling levels, and you’d be well within your rights to find that paltry.
‘Super’ Rebellion, in hindsight, feels like an exaggeration. Mediocre Rebellion’s more appropriate, but that probably wouldn’t sell as many units.
You can buy Mediocre Rebellion from the Xbox Store