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Upgrade Complete

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Rating: 4.6/5 (270 votes)
Comments (35) | Views (7,858)
DanTheArcherUpgrade Complete[The following is a winning entry in the YouAreGames: Reviewers, Assemble! contest. Congratulations again, DanTheArcher, and thank you to everyone who sent in Upgrade Complete reviews! For more information about how the results were chosen, please visit the contest announcement page.]

Among the myriad puzzles facing game designers is the system by which a player can blossom from a lowly newcomer of humble origin to a full-fledged killing machine, doling out 9999s of damage left and right. RPGs seem to have boiled this down to the precise science of "level up," while action games have tackled this problem with various approaches. Best of Casual Gameplay 2009Some merely grant the character abilities on a need-to-use basis, while other games implement a sort of experience system not unlike their role-playing cousins. More and more frequently, however, we see games that make use of currency to purchase bite-size enhancements for distinct weapons or parameters. These improvements are more commonly referred to as "upgrades," and as it turns out, Tony of Shift fame has something to say about them.

Upgrade Complete, from a gameplay perspective, works like a shmup in reverse. (A shmodown, dare I say?) Instead of your intrepid craft trying to pilot its way through fleet after fleet of alien adversaries, your ship is tasked with protecting the bottom of the screen from the hostile invaders. The [left] and [right] arrow keys (or [A] and [D], if you prefer) steer the ship left and right, while the [space] bar activates any of the assorted weapons that you have equipped.

Obliterate as many of the enemies as you can while collecting the cash they leave behind, but remember that should a single foe make it past the bottom of the screen, the level is lost, and you'll have to play it over again from the start. Sounds unforgiving at first, but keep in mind, the game is expecting you to lose repeatedly. In fact, it's downright COUNTING on it. Which is where the titular upgrades come into play.

In between skirmishes, you can spend your not-so-hard-earned loot on new parts for your ship, or save up and augment the gadgets you've already got. The novelty of the game, however, lies in its unparalleled meta-upgradeability. If you'd like, upgrade the buttons on the main menu. Or maybe the title logo. Or if you're feeling ambitious, upgrade the game graphics themselves, propelling yourself through a chronology of graphical styles. By the end of your stay, you'll be surprised you can't upgrade the upgrade system itself.

Upgrade CompleteAnalysis: From the very first moment you start playing, when it requests that you purchase the necessary preloader upgrade to load the actual game, you know what's in store. In the great satirical tradition of Achievement Unlocked, the design team here saw a particularly obnoxious trend of current games, and decided to lampoon the hell out of it. (The team even cites Achievement Unlocked as an inspiration in the credits, as well as a certain renowned game-review site...) While there's an undeniable, cheeseball fun in the shooting, this offering is a parody first and a game second.

This game oozes with digital sarcasm from every upgradeable orifice. (Of which there are quite a few, mind you.) From tabs in the bottom of the screen that zoom in and out to report your manifold "achievements," to distinct purchases between a soundtrack and a mute button, you can tell the creators had a message. I preferred the UI-hijinks over the explicit condemnation of upgrade systems at the game's end, but hey, they weren't going for subtlety with this one.

There isn't a whole lot of skill involved in the combat; it's mostly about how many missile launchers you can afford and upgrading the daylights out of them. At its core, though, that's what this game is out to prove. If there's no loss penalty and only more upgrades to be had, then ultimate victory becomes this inevitable force, like a meteor, moving slowly but surely towards you. One could argue that virtually any game with an upgrade system is guilty of the same crime, which raises questions about whether or not any of them can be truly "hard."

My gripes are few, but one of the major ones involves enemy explosions at the final stage of upgradeable graphics. Every destroyed craft detonates in a flash of searing light, intense enough that you may consider turning the brightness down on your monitor. Other than that, any criticisms of the game's implementation are a bit like criticizing why it's a chicken crossing the road and not a black-capped chickadee. When it's all said and done, a joke's a joke, whether it involves starships or chickens.

Now if you'll excuse me, I believe my chicken needs some upgrades.

Play Upgrade Complete


This review is made of win.

Next: Upgrade Complete 2 with Chicken-Ship cheat code!


Great review of a great game, just wanted to point out that the images link to the mincraft site.


The funny thing is that though it's meant to be a parody first and a game second, but the fact is that I actually enjoy it as a game on its own merits. It's short and easy to finish, it's true, but there's something calming about it for that. The increasing quality of the music and graphics is an enjoyable incentive. I've actually played it through about four times for no particular reason other than that I just wanted to.

My only complaint is that the different selections of music that accompany each graphics upgrade is really quite decent in its own right. This is a complaint because, whereas these music tracks are a few minutes long, each attack wave only lasts about 30 seconds. So we never actually hear most of the music. If you actually want to listen to it, you have to just sit there at the end of the wave, intentionally not clicking "return to menu" for a while. I hope the music wasn't composed especially for the game; if so, sucks for the composer!


Quin, I had the exact same reaction in my review of the game. (Which I won't pimp here)

Achievement unlocked is also fun, even though it's supposed to be showing us that achievements are pointless.

JNinjaz July 21, 2009 1:31 PM

I can't figure out how to get the "Super Ship!" achievement... help.

neo1973 July 21, 2009 1:41 PM


are ALL of your upgrades complete???

Nightwisher July 21, 2009 1:48 PM

That was an incredible piece of work. And by that I mean the game AND the review. Nicely done!


Absolutely brilliant! I spent more time laughing than I did actually playing.

Miasere July 21, 2009 3:20 PM

Silly question - I've managed to put guns on the play and back buttons and now I can't move them - Any idea how I can reload the game?


I second all those who say the game has it's play value. I had lots of fun playing it - i mean fun playing it as a game :)



OMG, I got an honorable mention!
:D :D :D :D
I'm SOOOO happy now!


Wow, I'm very surprised at the results. Nice work everyone! All of the reviews were enjoyable reads. ;)


Games that are essentially upgrade systems are actually fun to some people. For example, WoW, which is undoubtedly the most-played game in the world right now, is just one big upgrade system. The reason it is so popular is that advancing is based on time, not skill, and so it is accessible to everyone.


A great review for a great game. The only thing that really bothered me in the game was the ending. It's as if they were insulting the player for having fun. Very disapointing.

scathopius July 21, 2009 10:54 PM

Ummm... Did anyone figure how to change the angle of the guns as seen in the screenshot above? Finished the game, got to 110% process (wohoo!) and gonna start over. :)

To JNinjaz: You must have 12/12 ship parts at upgrade level 5/5, I suppose. At least that's what got me the Super Ship Medal (which I copied, pasted into Paint, enlarged, printed out and pinned to my wall right above my bed so I can sleep well again).


scathopius: The main guns only fire forward. The weapons that are firing at angles in the screenshot are a lightning emitter and a missile launcher.


It's possible to "win" without purchasing the final graphics/music upgrade, which makes me very happy as the third set is much better than the fourth.


Regarding the question if any games featuring upgrades are truly "hard", here's my oppinion. These games are just as hard as you make them. Just like games that have you level up, the more you grind the easier it gets, but it can be a true challenge if you don't grind at all (or in the case of upgrades; don't purchase the 0-cooldown-kill-everything-on-screen weapon upgrade).


Interesting gimmick, gameplay is interesting enough. I'd have liked to introduce some more upgrades and options in the "ship design" area, but I have never been *satisfied* with the degree of customisation available in any game I've ever played (not in Spore, not in GURPS, nothing).

I spent a long time sitting on level 7, refitting my entire arsenal - getting rid of the guns and speed panel, trading up for missiles and multiple magnets. My motto: moving is for suckers!


I tried replaying the game, this time using ONLY the Lightning weapon. My conclusion is that it's simply underpowered. Even with 12 Lightnings, all at level 5, I was simply unable to overcome Wave 20 no matter how I arranged them - in a semicircle, in three clusters, in four perfectly-stacked clusters, finally as a single all-stacked-on-one-point setup - all failed.
Tomorrow, I'll try beating the game with Cannons only (with agility upgrades, of course).

deadacc94994 July 22, 2009 2:26 PM

^ Actually, I found the pew pew cannons to be the best investment in the game -- I wouldn't have bothered getting the last achievement if I'd been loading up on the much more expensive seeker guns. One magnet, one speed, 10 cannons in a line, then just rock back and forth a little to spread the damage.

I'm waiting to see someone troll the maker. Someone ought to post a meticulously-tweaked speedrun of the game, complete with a voice-over droning on unironically about strategic decisions made and the merits of various alternative approaches.

scathopius July 22, 2009 7:02 PM

To Peter Horsey: Thanks for telling me, I guess I was still focused on the old view. Finishing wave 20 without having bought any other upgrade than weapons ftw! :D

To JonMW: Wow, that's a nice strategy, even though it's kinda lazy. But it works! I farmed like toooons of money to see how high you can go, but I'm gonna stop now. Here's my stats:

Two Lightning weapons, 5/5.
Six Missile launchers, 5/5.
Four Magnets, 5/5.
Process: 110%.
Money: $1,004,848.

taylor.kennedy1 July 22, 2009 8:36 PM

Very nice review! I considered writing one for this game, not because I loved it necessarily, but because it felt like a fun parody of a gaming trend that I love. I'm happy that DanTheArcher got chosen for this one - well done!

Anonymous July 23, 2009 1:03 PM

I liked the ending!

Congratulations forever!


Yeah, the ending was the best part! Whole game was awesome though, especially the music! There's something weirdly addictive about upgrading, isn't there?

Softbagel14 August 5, 2009 5:25 AM

The idea behind this game is brilliant. It made me want to keep playing. Every time I upgraded something, I felt rewarded and eager to see what I could find next. Tony thought outside of the box for this game, and I applaud him.
My only problems with this game were the graphics and difficulty. Some of the 'graphics upgrades' actually felt like downgrades, which was a disappointment. The whole thing was also very easy to beat, and in the end it felt unfinished and a bit rushed. I really wish there had been more upgrades and maybe some more complexity to the shooter game to make the whole thing harder. But because I liked the idea so much, I looked past those flaws and rated it higher.
I hope the creator realizes the gold he has in his hands with this game idea and expands upon it much further.


Tristan Pointer August 18, 2009 3:34 AM

This game rocks!
But why stop at a shooter?
imagine an upgradeable platformer, or a racer, made upgradeable in this style. It's gold!


How do you complete the mystery upgrade AAAH!?!?!?


Actually, the angle of the guns CAN be changed. You need the Flash Player for it though. Save the webpage it's on, and then open the .swf file with FP. In the ship building screen, if the game window is maximized, you'll see two almost invisible buttons on the right side of the screen. One of the buttons is part rotation, but I forget which one. Happy upgrading!

Anonymous April 8, 2010 4:29 PM

heh heh I bought thee mute before sound


Does the

Super ending

cost different amounts of money for different People. Mine was

over 8000


AlfanoMega October 8, 2010 4:26 PM

To Riley: Looks like the Super Ending costs exactly as much $$ as you have left in your bank. Mine cost $4795.

--Congratulations Forever!


Only thing I really hated was the jump scare when you buy Heart Rate. Yes. I get the joke, but I hate jump scares. Now I can't go back to finish, because i don't know if it will keep it up. =(
sorry if you argue that was a spoiler but I would have liked to known about it before it happened.

Jasmine April 7, 2011 1:49 AM

@Lita88 That EXACT same thing is going on in my head now:(Im scared it will happen again randomly if i try to go back on!

Talaeladar April 15, 2011 3:53 AM

Has anyone figured out a build that uses every square on the ship builder?


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