Whilst PlayStation VR is two years old now and has a wealth of great titles available, there are still some older releases that hit other platforms that still haven’t made their way over to Sony’s headset. That was the case with Space Pirate Trainer, with it initially releasing on virtual reality headsets back in 2016. Two years on though and it’s finally available on PlayStation VR, with console gamers now getting the chance to try out its fun and old-school shooting gameplay. Does it still hold up well today though or do the more modern releases cast a shadow over its wave-based shooting gameplay?
Space Pirate Trainer sees you taking on wave after wave of enemies, with each wave becoming progressively more difficult and sending even more vicious foes your way. Fortunately, you’re equipped with dual-guns that come with different firing styles (it could be standard shooting, laser blasting or even grenade launching) whilst you’ll also come across a multitude of power-ups to activate too. Want to know the neatest addition to your arsenal though? The Volton – a multi-purpose weapon you have equipped to your back that can be used for just about anything.
The Volton can be used as a shield to deflect incoming fire, to power up nearby turrets, to smash at nearby enemies or even to whip at foes and launch them around the place. It’s that last option that proves to be the most fun though, and believe me, there’s nothing more satisfying than whipping out at an enemy, latching onto them, and then swinging them down to the ground and watching them smash to smithereens. It never stops being fun to use the Volton and it certainly helps Space Pirate Trainer stand out amongst some of the other wave-based shooters available on PlayStation VR right now. Everything is perfectly tracked with the PlayStation Move controllers too, so it always manages to be a smooth experience that makes the weapons feel all the more satisfying to use.
There’re plenty of enemies to take down too, with a ton of flying robots to blast and smash up – they look like the sort of things you’d see in an arcade game of the 80s, which is quite fitting given that the whole vibe of the game feels that way too. These enemies will keep a constant storm of bullets coming your way, but fortunately there’s a bullet-time function in place that slows down time when any incoming fire nears your face, in turn allowing you to swiftly move yourself out of the way of any danger. It’s a neat feature and one that can certainly help get you out of some sticky situations. Plus, there’s nothing more badass that dodging bullets and using a whip to grab and smash enemies to pieces, right? The fact that you’re doing it all in virtual reality just adds to the neat vibe of the experience.
You’ve got multiple game modes to play through in Space Pirate Trainer: there’s the ‘Arcade’ mode that gives you just three lives to blast through each wave of enemies, the ‘Hardcore’ mode that eliminates the bullet-time feature, the ‘Explorer’ mode where your health can regenerate, and an ‘Old School’ mode that sees you tackling the game in its original wave-blasting form from when it first released. Whilst each game mode offers something different, the aim of the game in Space Pirate Trainer is to rack up as high a score as possible. There are leaderboards in place to see where you stand compared to other players too, with the incentive to keep going being to see yourself leapfrog those in front of you. My efforts haven’t been too successful so far, but hey, I’m sure I’ll find myself in the top ten soon enough…
Whilst Space Pirate Trainer’s shooting is a lot of fun, the gameplay itself can get a little bit repetitive. It’s something that a lot of wave-based shooters are guilty of, but it’s also something that’s seen as more of a negative point these days – especially since there are more fleshed out VR shooters available right now that offer more varied and meaty experiences. There’s no story here though nor are there hugely changing environments to keep you hooked in, with the main lasting appeal of Space Pirate Trainer just being to rack up high scores. It might not be enough for some players, even if the game itself is a lot of fun to play.
Space Pirate Trainer offers a thoroughly enjoyable VR shooting experience that really adds some fun touches to its gameplay thanks to its unique weapon arsenal. The Volton is one of the neatest weapons I’ve played around with in my PlayStation VR headset and the variety it offered kept me coming back to the game time and time again.
The only real problem is that Space Pirate Trainer could be a little too repetitive at times, which is the nature of the beat with wave-based shooters. Other PlayStation VR titles have managed to flesh out the genre a lot more to make it more interesting for gamers, but Space Pirate Trainer keeps it too basic with limited environmental changes and only a handful of game modes to play around in.
The pros definitely outweigh the cons though and Space Pirate Trainer’s gameplay is exciting and chaotic enough to make it worth checking out. There’s no guarantee that it’ll keep you hooked in to your PlayStation VR headset for a long time, but the hours you do spend with it will certainly be a heck of a lot of fun.
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift