What do we have here? Another game from Eastasiasoft, the masters of the easy achievement list? Why, yes it is.
Going by the name of Wings of Bluestar, this is billed as a “story driven shoot-em-up experience like no other”. Now, far be it from me to quibble, but what we actually have here is another in a long line of Eastasiasoft shooters, with retro style graphics and more bullets than you can shake a stick at. So, should we strap on a spacesuit and give it a blast, or are we better off watching satellites fail to launch from Cornwall?
Lets kick off with that story driven experience as there is a thread of narrative running through Wings of Bluestar, although – for reasons I’ll get to later – getting to the end of it may be beyond most people.
The narrative involves an AI entity that came to Earth, revived by scientists. From there, the AI and the government got on and the world entered a golden age of civilisation. Until, that is, the AI decided that everyone should be made into a cyborg to prevent humanity waging war ever again. The populace weren’t keen, I think it is fair to say, and when the rogue AI used the planet’s orbital defences to stage a pre-emptive strike, the scene was set for a war. And if an AI wants a war, a war it can have.
Wings of Bluestar is presented as a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, with a hand drawn look to the sprites. The enemies come thick and fast, and there is, without exaggeration, roughly eleventy billion arriving on screen at once – okay, maybe a slight exaggeration. But it’s nice that the stages do take some unexpected directions, with levels that scroll up and down, as well as seemingly into the screen along with running the usual side-scrolling ideas. The sound is exactly as you’d expect though, consisting of a variety of laser weaponry and explosions, right down to the mandatory siren sound when a boss is approaching.
There is nothing here to upset this reviewer, but nothing to blow my tiny mind or wig clean off. It is very much business as usual.
But how does it play, I hear you ask? This is the important bit after all, right? And, as we begin, the news looks pretty good, mostly as there are a number of modes to try your hand at. There is the arcade mode, which is your basic stage-after-stage shoot ’em up, and that is accompanied by a story mode, which is the same as arcade except for dodgy cut scenes that are very poorly translated into English. There is also a two player mode, for people who have friends next to them on the couch, and finally a Boss Rush mode available to be bought from the in-game shop.
The shop is an interesting addition to the game. As you play through whichever mode takes your fancy, there are bits of a picture to collect, and also stars that will be dropped by some of the enemies. These score you “Risk” points, and so when you finish an attempt on the game, these Risk points can be spent in the in-game shop. The aforementioned Boss Rush mode is available to buy, as is a gallery, and more credits amongst other things. It is nice to have the efforts of shooting bad guys rewarded with new stuff, so it is all gravy from this point on.
However you take a run in Wings of Bluestar you will find yourself enjoying some shooting action, at least as soon as you have chosen a character you are going to play as. You have a choice of a rookie pilot called Aya or a veteran ace called Zarak, and surprisingly their ships play very differently. Zarak is all about the offensive side of things, with many bullets being emitted from his ship; Aya meanwhile is the opposite, much more of a defensive player, utilising a shield that can be attached to the front, stopping bullets from ruining the day. This shield can also be charged up to give a super beam attack, and so she seems to be the obvious choice, right? Well, no, because Zarak’s weapons are so overwhelmingly powerful that not even bosses can live very long, so I’d go with him.
Both ships can have turrets attached, and these can also be steered to fire in various different directions, something that comes in extremely handy later on. The sections where you fly downwards are a real pain though, as enemies come from the left and right of the screen, so having the turrets firing behind while you shoot forward will make your life easier.
The action in Wings of Bluestar can be fast and furious, and the ships do offer two different ways to play, so the longevity of the game is assured. At least it would be if Eastasiasoft could have brought themselves to not hamstring the game with the Xbox achievement list. It’s typical Eastasiasoft stuff to be honest, with eight stages available should you be looking to finish the story. The problem is, the achievements run out after finishing stage three, and – for many – there goes the desire to continue playing.
It means that Wings of Bluestar is pretty much what we expected – a short shooting game with easy Xbox achievements thrown in for good measure. For achievement hunters, this is an easy sell, but for anyone looking for a game to invest time in, Wings of Bluestar is going to disappoint.
Wings of Bluestar is on the Xbox Store