Son of Scoregasm improves upon the original with an innovative risk vs. reward system that’s perfect for short bursts of portable play. The FingerGuns Review;
Remember Scoregasm? If you’ve played it, I’m going to presume that your vision just glazed over as you flash back to the pumping beats, kaleidoscopic visuals and fast paced action of 2011’s best and most refined arcade game. If not, let me give you a little description – It was really, really bloody good.
Charlie’s Games is back with a sequel of sorts called “Son of Scoregasm” for the PSVita and it takes the concept of the original game and innovates even further. It combines the fast pace of a shoot-’em-up with the constant need to adapt and evolve your play style to new conditions, all underpinned by a risk vs. reward system that encourages dangerous play.
The game has a loose but very British premise; Aliens have stolen precious biscuits from the “King of Earth”. Oh, and the aliens are threatening to destroy the Earth too. It’s your job to rescue the biscuits from the alien scum (and, y’know, stop the destruction of Earth in the process or whatever).
Each level of Son of Scoregasm is played within a shape. Inside of the shape, you play as spaceship that’s at the centre of a circular reticule. You control the ship using the the now standard twin-stick method. Left stick to move. Right stick to fire. The aim of each level is to a) survive bullet hell-esque waves of enemy ships and b) score points. All pretty standard fare so far. The catch? To score big, you have to kill enemies using your pulse attack. This is triggered with either of the PSVita’s shoulder buttons and kills/injures any enemy inside of the circle surrounding your ship. Each ship killed with a pulse attack adds to your multiplier and without a multiplier, you won’t score anything. This means that if you want to mount a serious challenge on the leaderboards (yes, there are leaderboards and a simple “rivals” system) you’re going to need to play dangerously, getting in close to swarms of enemy ships that can kill you with a single touch. Get killed and you have to start the level again. It’s a fantastic risk vs. reward system that challenges you to be daring and to getting your heart racing.
The innovation doesn’t stop there either. Each level has it’s own specific and well designed challenge. There’s a level that has you trapped within a triangle laser grid which is constantly shrinking and you have to fire at the corner connectors to force them back while you’re being surrounded by other enemies. There’s a level that looks like a radar dish with a green line that rotates around a circle and spawns enemies. There’s a level where the outline of the area is a laser and the enemy ships in there with you have the ability to knock you back towards the edge. Each level needs you to learn something new and to play a little differently.
Many of the shmup innovations from the original game return here too. There’s a bubbling effect that shows where an enemy is going to spawn from which gives you enough time to respond to it and prevents cheap deaths. At the end of each level, you’re given a choice between two portals; a green one to an “easier” level and an orange one to a more difficult level. While I wouldn’t always agree that the difficulty levels laid out by the game are correct (I’ve struggled more with some levels accessed through green portals than those through an orange portal) it’s nice to have this choice and to have a branching path of completion. If you’re stuck on a level, it’s easy to backtrack and take a different route through the 28 levels.
One of the other advancements in Son of Scoregasm over its predecessor is the art style. Here it’s much cleaner and sharper that in Scoregasm and gives off a Tempest-esque vibe without riffing on the Atari classic. It’s far easier to see what’s going on on-screen this time around without the myriad of colours flashing through the background to distract you from the action. It’s an art style I didn’t know I wanted from a sequel to Scoregasm, but it’s immediately apparent how much of a step in the right direction this is as soon as you start to play.
Of course, as a sequel to Scoregasm, you’d expect “Son of” to have a pretty excellent soundtrack and it certainly delivers. Dancy, trancy, bassy and toe-tappingly great beats are joined by synth laced tracks that would be at home on the Stranger Things soundtrack. It’s an excellent mix and begs to be listened to through headphones.
The biggest drawback to the number of innovations in Son of Scoregasm is that it has lost some of its flow. It’s a tad more difficult and less accessible that the previous game because it is more about attacking leaderboards and driving to get better and better with each try. The single life “one and done” approach means there is little room for error and there’s an element of trial and error as you scope out how best to tackle the unique challenge of each level. Unlike the previous game where you’re picking up power-up’s and had multiple lives, winning in Son of Scoregasm is purely born from skill and adaption and determination. It’s a game designed for shoot-’em-up veterans rather than genre newcomers which is aptly demonstrated by the brutally difficult Expert mode.
Scoregasm won a number of awards when it released in 2011 and its Son is certainly deserving of a few of its own. It’s a twin stick Shoot’em up that constantly surprises with innovation and originality in a solidly designed package that’s perfect for short bursts of portable play. It’s not going to be for everyone but if you love a good Shmup and want to play one of the tightest and most sophisticated arcade games of the year, it’s time to dust off the PlayStation Vita.
Son of Scoregasm is available now on PSVita (review version).
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of Son of Scoregasm. For more information, please see our review policy.