You can initially choose beginner or normal difficulty levels, but the game will also adapt on the fly. If you are doing really well, it will throw more enemy fire at you, while easing up (a little) if you’re getting perforated constantly. Your ships handle with a nice balance of smooth flying, but quick and nimble enough to perform some beautiful dodging. You have a health bar rather than the typical one-hit-per-life syndrome many of us grew up with. I’m not complaining by the way, PS3 pads are expensive items.
Early weapons consist of blasters, rapid-fire, a wavy plasma beam, something green and lightning arcs that auto-target enemy ships. Naturally you can power them up via pickups. They’ll get bigger, spreading over greater distances and cause more damage, although they don’t always seem any different until you’ve collected a quite a few pickups. One of your two ships has two default weapons, with the third changing depending what you find floating through space.
When scoring successful hits on enemy ships you’ll see little numbers coming off them indicating damage. This is great for seeing how effective your current weapon is against that type of opponent, but why do they have to be so damn small? Everything dies without too much difficulty though and you never feel like the game is screwing you over. If you’re getting hit, you know it’s your fault.
You are rated at the end of each level with an S-F rating based on kills, leftover specials, boss times and chaining skills. Rack up plenty of kills without taking too much fire and you rack up chain multipliers, though you’ll be hard-pressed to keep your eye on the metres as you avoid enemy fire. You’ll be immediately punished with a poor rating for picking beginner as a setting even if you make it through a level unhit.
Levels consist of space (duh really?), asteroid fields, tunnels, under the sea, you know the score. All good to look at, but if you do you’ll most definitely be soaking up a lasery bullety death. There are seven levels in total, but the game initially ends after five. To get the last two you’ll have to find all the hidden keys in the others. You might find them when you play through the same levels in the challenge modes, which is also where you unlock new weapons and special attacks. The challenges ask for you to collect so many rings in one level, complete the first three levels without dying and so on. For every few thousand enemies you blow up you’ll level up too, earning yourself extra credits for tougher missions.
It’s good to see the inclusion of a local two-player option. It’s got a bit of a co-op feel to it too, with any health or powerups collected shared between you. Watch out for picking up new weapons though as that’s also shared, “Aw weak, dude not the green thing again!” The score at the end of the level doesn’t say who bagged most points, which is a missed opportunity for bragging rights.
Soldner-X 2 is better than the first game, although this is more expensive at £9.99 and has fewer levels. Making you play the same ones over and over again can feel like busywork too after a while. It’s a long-winded system that goes against the quick thrills the genre.
This latest PSN retro shoot-em’ up doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre, it just look really good doing what it does. Saying that though, I could only hack three levels at a time before my eyes started to feel like they were going explode.
- Finely balanced levels of difficulty and challenge
- Impressive giant boss fights
- Two player option is a co-op blast
- Annoying unlock system
- Like most PSN titles, a bit overpriced for what it is
The Short Version: Fun to play though and probably the sexiest retina damage you’ll get this side of asking Angelina Jolie to scratch your eyes out. It’s a bit short though considering the £9.99 asking price but the two player co-op will make the experience last longer.