By Nathaniel Liles
When I was a kid, I loved Crimson Skies. We had it all, my mom’s boyfriend would bring over his fancy joystick and his throttle (there’s no less weird way to say it) and I’d fly into the ground time and time again resting assured that eventually the game would give up and just let me win. Needless to say, I was not good at flying because gravity got the best of me and, subsequently, the ground got the better of me. Things have changed drastically. First of all, we’ve nixed the concepts of “gravity” and “the ground”, which is a great start for me.
When Strike Suit Zero was first introduced on Kickstarter, it made a bit of a big deal about itself, claiming to completely reinvent space combat. This was “space combat reborn”, people, and they well surpassed their goal of $100,000 eventually raising upwards of $170,000, so as you can see, the hype train was stoked and choo-chooing. People were getting excited about this thing, the screenshots and promises made were all very… Well, promising. Logitech even gave away free 3D Pro joysticks to anyone who donated $70+. Does it live up to all those sky-high expectations? Well that’s a bit of a loaded question…
First, let’s talk about the aesthetics of the game, because the second I took a look at this game, the neon-laser space-explosions caught my attention in a way only shiny object can. My eyes glazed over, I started to drool, and I knew I had to give this a try, and when I did… Well, I was not disappointed in the least. Everything about this game is gorgeous; the backdrops are incredibly detailed and well done, the trails the ships leave behind make the sheer number of enemies on-screen paint a beautiful glowing scribble through space, and the ships themselves are well designed and, according to the 7-year old part of me that, again, loves shiny things, really, really cool. I can’t argue with that. My one complaint is that I would frequently be 100% blinded by a white-hot explosion, and while that may be cool at times, it happened enough to be annoying. I also had trouble finding differences between good guys and bad guys other than what color they were, and while this didn’t effect gameplay, it failed to establish the enemies as anything more than angry targets.
The music is very atmospheric and even haunting at times. It seemed like a very emotionally versatile assortment of music as well, because even if the same piece of music continues throughout moments of various danger and intensity, the music itself just seems to enhance whatever you’re feeling, and this game’s chaotic pace will make you feel something. It’s minimalistic, but powerful. The theme song, written by Kokia, is a soaringly beautiful piece that simply must be heard.
We’ve established that the game looks great and sounds great, but when I actually sat down and played it, I was immediately… Jarred, I suppose, by the strange controls. Now please note that I said “strange”, not “bad”, and in the same way that I adapted to the controls in Kid Icarus: Uprising, I adapted to these. The controls themselves are actually very similar to those in KI:U. You move your mouse to aim around, but you don’t actually turn your ship when you aim within certain confines on your screen. There’s an invisible circle in the middle of the screen where you can aim freely, without turning your ship, and to turn, you move your mouse to the edge of this circle. You can tweak things a little bit, but it was an uncomfortable way to play and I found myself wishing that this particular innovation was optional.
The game itself is also very fun, but very formulaic, but it smothers that formula with bit heaping spoonfuls of lasers and fun. The level variety is somewhat lacking, but the pure, fast, fun nature of it all makes it very easy to keep playing. If it wasn’t already clear, this game is a sci-fi flying and shooting game, and most missions go along the lines of “shoot the things with red diamonds on them”, but in a game like this, that’s just fine. The one wild card the game throws in is its namesake: the Strike Suit. The Strike Suit is basically a Transformer that flips between ship and giant robot modes, and while it’s incredibly fun to be a giant robot in space blowing up bad guys, the amount of time spent in this mode is kept to a minimum and it’s more of a special attack than a tactical option. This game was also very heavy on escort missions, most objectives being accomplished alongside a “Protect the Arcadia!” objective that remained constant through three quarters of the game. This does add variety, though, and it forces you to think about what the biggest threats are and the fastest way to stop the constant stream of lasers and torpedoes flowing forth from your enemies.
Bottom line, I feel like this is a really good game, and it’s definitely, definitely worth the $10 price of admission. It was incredibly immersive and aesthetically dream-like, and while the controls demanded adjustment, it was an adjustment I was happy to make to ride the neon-exploding laser-train to space. The missions have their highs and their lows, and playing through to the end is worth enduring a few escort mission and an extremely tedious bombing level, and replaying levels to upgrade your ship (because there’s no other way) is a great way to challenge yourself, adding heaps of replay value to this 5 hour+ game. I recommend this to anyone with $10 and an uncontrollable urge to split through space, unleash a massive swarm of rockets, transform into a giant robot, and save the damn world, like, three times.
Game : Strike Suit Zero
Developer : Born Ready Games
Platforms : PC / MAC / Linux
Price : $4.99 & up