Developer: Secret Location
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed) HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Blasters of the Universe offers a Tron-inspired experience, with the game’s heroic protagonist Blaster entering the virtual reality dimension of a new arcade game that has been taken over by an evil and arrogant gamer named Alwyn. This means taking on Alwyn’s almost endless horde of minions as well as some huge bosses, all whilst using a myriad of customisable weapons and dodging an onslaught of incoming fire. Easy, right? Wrong – Blasters of the Universe offers a firm challenge that’ll really push your shooting (and dodging) skills to the limit, but at least it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play.
The core gameplay itself is just like a wave-based shooter – you know, being fixed in one spot and taking on all of the enemies that come your way. Admittedly, it’s a genre I’m starting to tire of a bit and there are plenty of other shooters on PlayStation VR that offer a lot more freedom to the player these days, but Blasters of the Universe has a few unique hooks of its own that manages to keep the game feeling a bit more exciting.
One of those is the ‘bullet hell’ aspects, with an absolute ton of bullets constantly shooting the player’s way in all different shapes and sizes. It’s almost like you’re playing a first-person schmup at times, and you’re going to have to really get your body moving if you want to stay out of harm’s way. In fact, I’d thoroughly recommend playing Blasters of the Universe standing up; the moves you’ll need to pull off are almost impossible whilst sitting down.
You’ll only take damage if a bullet hits your head though, so as long as you keep it out of the way of the onslaught of enemy fire you’ll be fine. It’s a lot easier than it sounds – the incoming bullets are spread out in a spacious way, so you’ll often find gaps where you can quickly shift your head (or whole body if you need to) to keep yourself safe. You’re also equipped with a shield, which can be quickly activated to protect yourself. It has an energy bar of its own so you can’t continually use it, but there’ll certainly be moments where dodging isn’t enough and you’ll need to put it to use.
You’ve got to balance your defensive manoeuvres with shooting, and it actually makes for a lot of fun. I loved dodging the almost-constant incoming fire that was heading my way, all whilst quickly pulling off slick headshots in-between – I mean, it really leaves you feeling like you’re this sci-fi action hero. The added pressure of having to block enemy bullets certainly adds a whole lot to Blasters of the Universe though, and it helps it feel like more than just another wave-based shooter. You can probably expect to die quite a bit though, especially on the appropriately named ‘Hell’ difficulty.
One of the other big hooks is that you’re able to fully customise your gun, with a surprisingly robust selection of parts available for you to make your own villain-smashing weapon of destruction. Every aspect of it is customisable, be it the type of ammo you use, the rate of fire, the size of your ammo clip, your shield – seriously, you can literally potch around with everything. The weapon parts themselves look pretty cool too, and often have neat little animated features that help them all feel distinct. There are a ton of different combinations available, and being able to toy around with them all really adds to the experience.
One thing I appreciated was just how different the weapons actually felt, especially as far as the ammo type and rate of fire is concerned. Rate of fire has always been one of the stats I’ve not payed much attention to in shooters, but being able to land those few extra shots on an enemy before they can fire at you makes a big difference in Blasters of the Universe. Nothing feels like it’s there for the sake of it, and whilst some weapon combinations are admittedly a little poor, you really do have the flexibility to put together something that really suits your playstyle.
There are four different stages to play through in total across two difficulty levels – Blasters of the Universe is certainly a bit on the short side. The Casual difficulty setting is probably a bit too easy too, so if you’re going to get the most out of the game you’ll want to take on the challenging-but-fair Hell difficulty. Either way, it won’t take you too long to get through the game’s main campaign, with it lasting just a couple of hours in total (or less if you don’t die too much).
There are additional modes on offer though, such as the Endless mode which allows you to take on a constant onslaught of enemies to rack up high scores, whilst the Challenges give players the same weapon setup and challenge them to get as high a score as possible to compete with other players around the world. There are online leaderboards in place across the whole game, so those who enjoy score-chasing and seeing their name up in lights will certainly find some longevity there.
Talking about lights, Blasters of the Universe’s 80s-inpsired neon-lit visual style certainly needs mentioning. The game’s use of bright colour is certainly effective, with each environment you battle across full of little detail and always impressive in size. The sci-fi creatures you face off against fit in the world perfectly too. Admittedly, there aren’t really a massive variety of them, but at least they all look good – the huge boss battles are particularly impressive though, especially with the added immersion that the PlayStation VR headset offers…