If popular media has taught me anything, it's that space is awesome. Sure, textbooks and "facts" would have you believe that it's a vast, cold and lifeless void, video games and movies will tell you the truth. Adventure lurks around every corner, from pitched space battles to things that want to lay eggs in your chest! Yes, space is a truly wondrous, precious frontier of fathomless delight. So get out there in Vector Boom, the newest sci-fi defense game from Hero Interactive, and start blowing it up!
What are you waiting for? They're going to get you if you don't get them first! What do you mean, "Who's they"? Clearly they... uh... well, obviously they're... hmm. Vector Boom doesn't exactly provide a whole lot of explanation as to why your space station is under immediate and constant attack, but the fact that the approaching waves of enemy ships and rockets seem particularly eager to turn you into space dust should be incentive enough for a little return fire.
Unlike most defense games, you'll take a much less passive part in the battles as you use your mouse to decimate incoming enemies. Hold left-click and drag on an area to select the scope of your shot's explosive power, indicated by the grey radius, and then let 'er rip. Each shot uses up power, as indicated by the blue bar at the top of the screen, and the bigger the blast the more you use. But be careful, as while power recharges fairly quickly, your enemies don't just wait placidly to be destroyed.
As long as you have power left, you can fire as quickly as you can click and select an area, so it's important to be constantly on the move for your next target. But at the same time, your enemies are on the move too. Not only shot timing but placement is important here; too small a blast won't take out all oncoming threats, but waste too much time making a big one and your enemy could be somewhere else by the time your shot lands.
Between each level, you can use the cash you earn to purchase various upgrades for your station. Things like recharge speed and increasing the amount of damage you can do is always tempting, but don't neglect your defenses. While they're nowhere near as effective as the shots you fire manually, you'll find turrets available for purchase that fire independently at anything that comes within range.
While some enemies will zip in towards you kamikaze style, others will fire on you from a distance, and there's a surprising variety of them. Just when you've gotten used to the idea of what appears to be a giant space oil tanker intent on exploding all over you, the mines and missiles start showing up. The different patterns of attack and movement force you to be on your guard and keep a close eye on your health, shown here by the green bar above your power. Keep an eye out for the various powerups — obtained by shooting them -- which can do anything from temporarily shielding you to magnetically drawing all enemies on screen to a single point... which definitely comes in handy as things quickly start getting hairy.
Analysis: The first few levels of the game are deceptively easy. Had I really been some sort of interstellar space pirate queen, I would have been reclining comfortably on my throne built from the skulls of my enemies, smacking my gum and reading gossip magazines. And then level three would come along and swarm me to death. It doesn't take long for the pace to start picking up, and the tidy little groups of enemies get bigger, meaner, and faster. At first the amount of health you're given seems like a ridiculous amount, but believe me when I say the game doesn't let you get comfortable for long. The enemies may not do much damage individually, but as their numbers increasing to insane levels your health can drop dramatically in a short time.
Vector Boom's click-and-fire interface helps draw you in more than most other defense games, but I still found myself wishing for additional attacks. A wider variety, perhaps accessed by scrolling through them with the mouse, would have gone a long way towards keeping the gameplay fresh. Oh, what's this, enemy rockets? Guess I'll drop an explosion on them... just like everything else. Even one or two additional forms of ammunition would have spiced things up considerably.
At just ten levels, Vector Boom feels a little short, even with it's Survival Mode, which has you see how long you can last against endless waves of enemies. It's a nice option, but I really would have liked the main campaign to be longer because it's a ton of fun while it lasts. If you have fast fingers, you can blow through it fairly quickly. While Survival Mode grants you the ability to upgrade your station right away with a nice lump sum of cash, it's not quite as satisfying as clawing your way through the waves for enough cash to gradually turn your station into an all-powerful avatar of explosive death.
Vector Boom is a lot of fun, even if it winds up a snack rather than something really meaty. The gameplay quickly gets fast and furious, it's easy to pick up, and it's sleek, simple presentation is lovely. People who like their defense games to be played at a more sedate pace may be put off by Vector Boom's need for fast reflexes a bit of a turn off, but others will find the experience a welcome challenge.