Remember Asteroids? You know, one of the founding members of the early gaming scene and a forebearer to what we know and love. Well, Super Star Blast is basically Asteroids, just for a slightly more modern day gamer. But it’s also a grind. A massive grind.
Created by the team at EntwincklerX, Super Star Blast is one of the most simple games I’ve played in years, leaving you to navigate a single ship through the challenge of space, taking down asteroids and enemies as fast, and as safely, as possible. And it’s pretty simple because there is no need to really dodge obstacles, and there is no path to discover, or hidden secrets to find – it leaves your ship front and centre of the playfield with enemies bearing down from all angles, as you go about getting rid of them.
It is here where you’ll find yourself moving slowly forwards in order to attack, moving slowly backwards in order to retreat, and spinning your ship through a full 360 degree movement, constantly firing in order to get one up on the other ships that dare infiltrate your space. This is done by utilising the left stick or d-pad to move, and either the A or RT buttons to shoot, with everything else on the controller made redundant. It really is a case of point, shoot, and hope in Super Star Blast.
With just bog standard galactic stars providing the scrolling background, and a scanner circling your ship to point out potential threats, making your way through the levels is simple progress. Each kill you make, and then every level completion you manage, pushes you onwards towards ship upgrades and more complex killing capabilities. And you’ll need them too as in Super Star Blast the level difficulty ramps up pretty significantly with the initial early ships you find yourself going up against quickly making way for more powerful craft with homing missiles and multi-shot options. There are times when this sees Super Star Blast become a bit of a brief test, all before it begins to peter out into the same old routine.
These upgrades see you being able to provide additional ships (basically lives), which deplete whenever you make contact with enemy ships or missiles, a multi-staged shield which allows for more hits to be taken, an increase in your ship’s agility options letting you move in a slightly nimbler fashion, and the chance to take down a greater number of enemy ships at once with a complex firing system. It’s not long before you start to see your ship become a bit badass, with weaponry that fires out from the sides as well as forward, and by dropping your earned credits into these four sectors, should be able to compete with the most hardcore ships the galaxy has known.
The problem is, in order to upgrade these stats, Super Star Blast becomes a massive grind. Doing away with bothering to waste credits in the ‘Ships’ department – as every time you are hit, you’ll basically lose precious credits and lives – the other three options on the table require immense amounts of credits in order to see significant upgrades put in place. If I’m honest, when the overall gameplay of each and every level is so similar, except for the few different types of enemies you’ll face, that grind really starts to hammer home and interest levels in what EntwincklerX have created start to decrease.
Yes there are both a single player campaign to enjoy, and an up-to-4-player local multiplayer offering which covers both the standard tale and a more competitive battle mode, but these still all play out in the same, fairly mundane, way. And even when there is a change – for example the competition mode in multiplayer throws pickups into the action – it’s not deep enough, nor rewarding enough, to warrant anything but the quickest of party plays. It certainly hasn’t been created with longevity in mind.
It’s not just the grind which is an issue with Super Star Blast on Xbox One though and little niggles bring the overall experience down. For starters, dare to switch one controller off after a multiplayer session in the hope of taking down foes alone and you may well be met with issues. Multiple times I’ve either seen the game crash back to the dash, or just flat out refuse to move any further, with a full restart of the game needed. If that’s not bad enough, adding new controllers is a game of chance, with the previous ‘host’ seeing their menu options taken over by a friend, and utter confusion reigning supreme.
That is compounded by another silly little issue which finds the game soundtrack refuse to play should you attempt to switch the audio button between on and off states, whilst in-game there is the occasional bit of game stutter and lag that takes hold when all hell is breaking loose out in space.
For the most part it runs well enough, but then, for the majority of your time with Super Space Blast on Xbox One you’ll find yourself creeping forward as slowly as possible so that you can get the first shot off at an enemy; fast paced it is not. Even then, that constant feeling of grind is hammered home at every opportunity – and at the end of the day, that just gets a bit too much, particularly once the achievement grabbing process on Xbox One reaches its final stages.
This all combines to see Super Star Blast providing a relatively decent experience in the early stages, with the draw of upgraded ship elements and Gamerscore harvesting the only real things to keep you going back for more. But once the former of those starts to become unattainable, and the gameplay continues to provide the same old spin, chase and blast style mechanics, this is a game that begins to get pretty old, pretty fast.
But then maybe the price allows for that. Just.