Super Earth Defense Game!
Our most recent competition has shown some seriously inventive interpretations of the theme "Replay", and one of the standouts in that category is Carl Foust's Super Earth Defense Game. It's a typical side-scrolling shooter on its face but, in a unique twist, really shines once your ship gets destroyed.
Using the [arrow] keys to move and the [space bar] to shoot, you must avoid or destroy waves of enemies before making it to the final boss. The replay theme (or in this case, "REPLAI", Responsive Emergency Paradox-Limiting Aerospace Insurance System) comes into play once you are destroyed: it's described as a portable time machine that takes you back to the start of the level. You then fly and fight alongside your past self until the point at which you died.
You have only three replays available, but after you die the critter that killed you is colored differently than the rest, rendering it invulnerable so that it can stick around to kill your prior incarnation. This has the net effect of giving you an extra set of guns for a short period of time, hopefully making it easier for you to pass through the level.
Analysis: I particularly enjoyed the blocky, hyper pixelated graphics in this game, and it was instantly one of my favorites for that reason. I appreciate it when developers recognize that graphics aren't the final word in the quality of a game, and do so intentionally and with great care rather than by cutting corners.
This game does has a few flaws though that render it only an average shoot-em-up.
Carl made the choice to slow down the rate of fire, but I found that frustrating rather than challenging. Send about four times more enemies at me and let me rain near-constant death upon them!
The final boss has also been criticized for being too easy, and I heartily agree. I tried Jay's tactic of just hanging around at the top of the screen and I barely had to move. Either juice up the boss's tactics or just lower his hit points so I don't have to spend too much time dealing with him. The aforementioned rate-of-fire boost may have solved this issue as well.
The ship was also very slow to control, and this too was really frustrating. This may also have been a design choice to heighten the difficulty, but that choice was at the expense of the excitement. Shooters should be fast, noisy, and hairy, with little time to think. Can you imagine if Defender had a REPLAI system?
Despite my snobbish comments I can't say that I didn't have fun playing. He's made a good game that with a few small improvements could be a truly excellent experience.
Jay - The first time I fired up Super Earth Defense I was a bit skeptical. It seemed like so many other games I had seen and played before. It wasn't until my first ship died and I clicked "Continue" did I realize the very clever design within. All of a sudden, as an epiphany, I saw the potential possible within a game that actually requires you to play well 3 times to muster up enough fire power to beat it. Unfortunately, Super Earth Defense isn't that game. But it is a brilliant design with enormous potential nonetheless. I'm hoping to see this idea fleshed out further with better level design and more devious boss fights. Exceptional idea, Carl!