Developer Rusto Games recently released SpareWare, a fast-paced top-down shooter, that is relatively unique. From the $10 price tag to the chaotic gameplay, Spareware is a vast contrast from other Xbox titles. The premise may seem like a pointless button masher, but there it actually pays to put effort into learning the mechanics of the game.
Set in 2186 in a city called Helsinki, heavily-armed robots must destroy a evil political regime to save the world. After a brief introduction, you are thrown right into the action, given simply a control layout before the action begins. You can play through the story solo or with as many as three friends. Character selection features plenty of depth, with an array of weapons, shields and robot designs to unlock. Working to build the ultimate machine of destruction is rewarding, as it becomes easier to raise terror in the city. Part selection is key, as every region of the body can be destroyed. As satisfying as it is to see limbs blown away from your adversaries, severe damage can also be inflicted upon you.
The two ways of attaining special parts for your robots is to either unlock them or find them on the battlegrounds. The idea of finding a high-powered gun or shield in the midst of action is elating. All of the trinkets you find in levels can be used to boost your robot, which ultimately determine how far you go in the game. The most important aspect of the game is collecting energy cells, which serve as the main stimulate. These cells permit you to use the new gadgets you have found. The problem with cells is that each level uses up your cells, forcing you to be conservative. If you use all your cells you lose all your progress, forcing you to start from square one. Even though you can finish many levels by simply running to the finish line, it does more harm than good. The downside to working so hard to earn these abilities is that they can be stripped from you if you don’t hit certain marks.
Spareware’s control scheme is simple, shooting is handled with the shoulder buttons, interaction and using abilities is controlled by face buttons. Although it’s easy to pick up and play, the control scheme can be frustrating when bombarded by hoards of enemies. On-Screen indicators are difficult to understand, with very little tutelage before play. Many of the icons on the screen are useless, and often difficult to understand. Your character cannot run and shoot at the same time, and finding vantage points to get yourself together can be rather difficult. Because your entire body can be destroyed, you will have to start over tougher missions plenty of times to get it right, as it is difficult to finish many missions without arms or legs. Earning XP helps increase your characters speed and health, which in turn helps you fend off stronger enemies.
In terms of graphics, Spareware is reminiscent of a Sega Dreamcast title. Although levels are detailed and there is little to no lag, the game doesn’t utilize the Xbox One’s power. Character design is rather dull, and environments are often bland. Progress is dictated by movement on the map, which ultimately ends in getting to the center. Strategic movement on the map dictates the ease of beating the game, and which abilities you unlock. Certain portions of the map offer more rewards for completion, but require more effort to beat. Layouts are all unique in terms of design, but the later you go in the game, the more repetitive gameplay becomes. Many levels don’t show difference in time of day or weather, making gameplay more mundane. Enemy re-spawns are another issue, as the top down view doesn’t help with the differentiation and variety.
The multiplayer portion of the game is much more interesting, as strategy comes into play to keep your unit alive. The friendly fire option requires players to focus their shooting to make sure their teammates aren’t caught in the crossfire. Spareware is a traditional multiplayer game, in the sense that it’s actually more fun to play with friends in person than online. But not having the option to play online is a major letdown, considering how important online gameplay has become Another oddity about Spareware is the lack of downloadable content, despite an early patch being released. No online play and no option to purchase additional abilities or characters is disappointing.
Spareware is an interesting idea, that just wasn’t thought out well enough to be a hit on next-gen platforms. Lack of online accessibility and repetitiveness are major flaws, but If you are looking for a fun game at a great price to play with friends, then Spareware is the game for you.
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