Do you enjoy the difficult side scrolling shooters of the past? I grew up playing games like Gradius, Contra and the like, and have always had a deep appreciation in my heart for a game that makes me want to throw the occasional controller against a wall. While Starry Nights: Helix isn’t exactly this type of game, it does a great job of straddling the line between casual and hardcore shooter – mostly in the form of handing you easy levels followed by boss battles that vary wildly in difficulty.
You begin the game as Soa, a character who is hell-bent on making it to school on time, regardless of whatever life is going to put in her way that day. In this instance, it’s a series of enemies, bright lights and oddly themed boss battles across seven levels that throw literally everything they have at her. Seriously, there are times where the entire screen may as well be covered in projectiles you must do your best to avoid. I found myself sleepwalking through some levels and absolutely wanting to pull my hair out during boss fights until I had the patterns down.
While it took me a bit to get the hang of Starry Night’s controls, hit markers and enemy patterns, there isn’t a lot that this game does to build upon a genre that is about as old as gaming itself. Outside of the normal, “shoot everything that moves on-screen” mentality, Starry Nights utilizes a melee attack that is necessary to bring down certain enemies as well as deflect some otherwise very difficult to dodge attacks. The boss battles offer a variety of unique characters and patterns you must master. When it comes to boss battles this game doesn’t pull any punches. I found my first couple attempts to beat the first boss were met with nearly instant death, due to the lack of hand holding when it comes to figuring out the mechanics of the game. It’s safe to say the levels leading up to the boss don’t adequately prepare you for what you are about to face.
Helix utilizes the very typical beat a level then move on to a boss fight side scrolling shooter formula. The level design is fun (albeit repetitive), and I very much enjoyed the anime style found throughout. The beautifully designed characters and animations help keep the repetitiveness of the shooter somewhat fresh and you don’t run into too many recycled enemy patterns (in terms of bosses at least), which helps the transitions from level-to-level and the boss fights in between fun without getting overly stale.
The dialogue in this game, or should I say, the garbled mess of a story that you receive between each of the levels to progress along, leaves a lot to be desired. This was never meant to be the focal point of the game, however, it still could be a bit more cohesive to try and tie the hodgepodge of levels together. It’s very easy to see that localization of this game to North America was given very little effort. The translation here is lackluster at best and is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, and their use of punctuation at times would make an elementary school student blush with embarrassment. Thankfully, you could have left out literally every mid-level dialogue scene from this game and it wouldn’t have really changed anything.
While the game doesn’t boast the largest set of levels or the longest play through time – in fact, it only has seven levels in all which you can beat in about 30 minutes. Once you beat the game with Soa, it does allow for the game to be played through as three additional characters that change-up the gameplay and story a bit. The experiences are different enough to make each play through feel somewhat fun and fresh, mostly because the game is only about 30 minutes if you fly through it. These extras are a welcome addition to get a little bit more out of that $3.99 price tag.
This game fully understands what it is – a bargain retro shooter that will get you a few hours of mindless fun, hearkening back to the days of side-scrolling shooters like Gradius and it’s line of sequels. Its Anime style offers up fun graphics and entertaining enemies, however, this won’t be a game that you find yourself going back to again and again. If you have a few bucks left in your Steam Wallet or on your PlayStation account, give Starry Nights: Helix a try. $3.99 is a bargain even if you only get an hour or so of entertainment out of it before moving on to something with a bit more substance. Just don’t go into this expecting to find a game that fully satisfies your craving for the ultra-difficult retro shooters of your childhood.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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