Stellar Interface is an Indie game that I have had the pleasure of playing through Steam on the PC. Each time you play the game you are placed into different runs through the game and once you are killed the run ends. Each stage within a run puts your ship back to full health so that you are able to go into the next level refreshed. Each stage gives the player three different possibilities of what the level could involve, broken down by a percentage, the closer a percentage is to 100 the more likely the level will involve one. The fourth variable that is presented is the level of difficulty which is rated from 1 to 5, 5 being the most difficult. Each run is different as the levels are procedurally generated so that the experience of a run is always different.
The game uses simple controls which don’t take up any real concentration, which is very helpful when you work up to threat levels 3+, as the difficulty for each level does increase quite dramatically. The arrow keys move the ship, x is fire, c is dash, z lets you cycle between available consumables and space activates the chosen consumable. My only irritation with the controls is you can use any combination of movement, such as right and down to move in a diagonal line, apart from backwards. Which when you are in an awkward situation with all sorts of enemies, would have been quite useful. Before you begin a run, the player can choose between ships that they have unlocked, some will tell you what is most effective weaponry to be used as you can choose from a number of different weapons that you would like to begin with. The ship is limited by something called RAM which indicates the amount of energy available to run the guns. If they become higher RAM than the ship provides then this mix cannot be used together. The consumables are greatly helpful in a tight spot however, they tend to effect a large area on the battlefield which can be lifesaving on a number of occasions.
After completing a stage the game presents the player with a chance to experiment with different power ups made available. Three will appear and each will tell you what it does, with the odd one not really specifying anything in particular which encourages you to just give it a shot and see what happens. These stack each level and help to make you a greater force to be reckoned with. These are different each run and can have a few different variations, with some even repeating so they can be made twice as effective. There are then different outcomes on each stage depending on the probability shown. If it is to be a normal stage then you are presented with a battlefield where an objective can be asked of you, or you just survive until the round finished, taking down as many enemies as you can. A merchant level presents the player chance to swap the gear on the ship, even unlocking new weapons which can then be used at the start of the game. A factory is the chance to be able to unlock a new ship, by completing the required mission for the level, the ship becomes available from the next run. A lost lord is a boss level, these tend to be difficult and present the player with a real test of skill. Probably one of the most important factors is the three missions that are visible throughout a run. These change each time and are to be achieved before you fail a stage. For each completed you unlock a cartridge which has a power up associated with it, when starting the next run you can pick from the unlocked and start with this power up on your ship. So the more you unlock the better the head start you can get.
This game has gone down the route of pixel art, which was not a bad choice, it gives the ships a bit of a retro feel which could gain the favour of players that enjoy this type of style but are usually a bit cautious around the permadeath game mechanic. I would have liked to see more variations of level settings as there are very few, I think this would have made runs more interesting and captured my interest as I enjoy the feel of not only the enemies changing but my surroundings. The variations of enemies is not bad, but I also feel like that would be something I would also like to see more of, however these can all be brought in with future game updates which would be great for the game when moving forward.
The music for this game is quite a generic techno soundtrack. It is simple but flows well with a constant rhythm which can help find your footing in some difficult stages. The sound effects are quite basic but are complimented slightly with the background music and graphics so they don’t tend to take away from the impact of the game.
The game does have a high level of replayability for a couple of different reasons. As I have already mentioned, a run is procedurally generated so every time a play through is started it has a different combination of enemies, objectives, missions and patterns. As a choice of one out of three upgrades is available at the end of each completed stage, it is possible to have different builds each play through so that different combinations can be tested to get a more functional ship. The game being a permadeath situation also means a run is short so a player isn’t sent back hours of gameplay time, reducing the frustration and making it easier to return time and time again
I enjoyed this game quite a lot. The leaps in difficulty kept me on my toes and the permadeath was not an issue as it meant I could attempt different builds and try my luck with new combinations. I feel the enemies and players ship are quite large, it would have been nice for these to be shrank down a little to get a feel of having more space to work with and the screen not feeling so crowded. The introduction to being able to move backwards in a diagonal line would be great too, as it is only a little control, it can have a great impact as even though I knew it wasn’t an available function, I still kept trying my luck. With these things in mind I will still return to this game frequently as it has the ease of being able to spend however much free time you have available. Whether this be half hour or a couple of hours, it is easy for time to go by as you try to push yourself further and further in search for defeating all of the lost lords and collecting all power ups possible.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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