In our latest review, Brandon took a look at Flump Studios’ great arcade shoot em’ up Pester. The game plays homage to many of the great arcade shooters like Galaga. Pester released on January 25th, 2013 for XBLIG for a mere 80 Microsoft points.
GAME NAME: Pester
DEVELOPER(S): Flump Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Flump Studios
GENRE(S): Shoot Em’ Up
RELEASE DATE(S): January 25, 2013
We would like to thank Flump Studios for giving us the opportunity to review Pester.
Prepare to be Pestered, in a good way! Pester is a vertical shoot em’ up which blends the old school with the new creating a frantic and fun shooter experience. With over 95 combinations of play, a thumping techno soundtrack, 6 trophies to unlock and a unique old school-new school graphic style Pester is a game for both shooter enthusiasts and anyone up for a good challenge.
The controls are pretty simple with the left stick controlling the direction your ship will move, pressing or holding the A button or the RT will fire, and LT is used for focus speed which slows your ship down (becomes very useful if you use it). The B button is used for bombs which you collect during certain game types, and the X button is used once you fill your Hyperspace Bar and allows you to do more damage and collect coins automatically for a short period of time. Coins are collected after enemies’ deaths, and they help fill you Hyperspace Bar.
The gameplay of Pester, as you will first notice, is your standard vertical 8-bit space shooter. There are three power ups that randomly spawn from the top of the screen and will proceed to the bottom until they are gone. There are “Shot Power” power-ups, “Ship Speed” power-ups, and “Bomb” power-ups. The “Shot Power” power-up increases your damage, and the more you get the stronger and wider your ships will become. The “Ship Speed” power-up increases your ship’s speed, and the “Bomb” power-up gives you a bomb which clears the screen of all enemies excluding bosses.
At the menu you will first notice that you have two different game types to choose from: Arcade or Tempus. Under Arcade you then can choose to play either Classic, Survival or Bonus Survival(Boss Mode). You then can unlock two more game modes titled Asteroid Belt and Boss Mode. Asteroid Belt is unlocked by scoring at least 30,000 in Survival, and Boss Mode is unlocked by at scoring at least 20,000 in Asteroid Belt.
Classic mode is the normal gameplay where you start with three lives and go through waves of enemies until you reach a boss. Rinse, wash, repeat. Survival mode is the bare bones game mode where you have 1 life and just try to stay alive and survive. Bonus Survival (Boss Mode) is basically survival mode, but it only features bosses instead of ordinary enemies.
If the gameplay seems like it’s pretty straight forward, its not necessarily since you can enhance the gameplay in a few ways. The game has modifiers which are Expert Mode, Duo, and Reverse. Expert mode just increase the difficulty by what the game says is by 150%. Duo mode also makes the game harder because it makes you control two ships simultaneously. The problem with Duo is if one ship dies they both explode. It is awkward to control as well since each analog stick controls a different ship, but you fire at the same time. Finally, Reverse simply inverts the movement controls.
If you’re wondering how to unlock all the backgrounds, music, etc., then check out the awards menu where it will detail each requirement for your desired unlockable. These various requirements typically focus around certain high scores or defeating a game mode with a various handicap. The game saves your high scores in the options menu. At the end of each game when you die it will tell you if you have beaten one of your high scores. This adds a bit of replayability to each game mode if you are the competitive type.
Pester has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard for any title. Right off the bat you have four soundtracks to choose from with an additional two that can be unlocked later in Pester. The background music is mostly comprised of techno that suits the game marvelously, but it even features an arcade soundtrack to make you feel like you’re back in your favorite arcade. The actual title names to the soundtracks are “Drifted”, “Mad Men”, “Wicked”, “Arcade Ambiance”, “Decent (Bonus Track)”, “Breaking Thru (Bonus Track)”, and two unlock titles “B.F.S.” AND “Impressive”.
The ship’s fire sound effect is nice and all, but it suffers from the problem that all shoot em’ ups do, with rapid firing noises becoming easily annoying. The sound effect for death is reminiscent of the classic arcade explosion noise. This mixture of modern day techno with retro arcade sound effect was an interesting take that was greatly appealing.
The graphics and animations of the game are very well done. Before you start a round you can choose whether to have overlays, scan-lines, or no effects. Should you choose to apply any effects, it gives adds to the retro feel. Pester features three different ships for you to choose from: Classic, Grace, or Hornet. The Classic ship you control looks like a slightly modified Galaga ship, further paying homage to the classic. The enemy variety is excellent and diverse with over a dozen present. Unlike the enemies’ ships, your ship has the ability to tilt giving it the appearance of being 3D. One nice touch was the incorporation of particle physics in the use of explosions and fire trails.
Pester features several selectable backgrounds to chose from and unlock to cater to your wants. The selectable backgrounds are “Deep Space”, “Moon”, “City”, “Sky” and two unlockable backgrounds “Be-Duelled” and “Hyper Active.”
Down to the Nitty Gritty:
I really liked Pester. It is safe to say that this is currently my favorite Xbox Live Indie Game. Flump Studios incorporated some good ideas and paid homage to one of the most known space shooters, Galaga. The controls are tight and responsive while the graphics make you feel like you’re moving through space. Enemies are nicely designed and diverse. Bosses are unique and have the nice effect of showing battle damage instead of needing a health bar.
Like many space shooters, Pester is a game where you practice and get a little better each playthrough. There were many times that I was faced with not having any options to move since the screen was covered with enemy fire, but that is to be expected from games of this genre. The graphics are very colorful and vibrant. The additional game modifiers are okay, but two of them seem useless. Expert mode just makes the game immensely harder whereas Duo mode just gives you a headache and makes your hands hurt.
All in all, I found myself quite pleased with Pester even though I’m not much of a hardcore space shooter fan. It felt like the kind of game where I would play late at night when I was bored and just wanted to have a quick feeling of accomplishment as I destroyed hundreds of enemy ships. Pester will definitely be one of the games I play every once in awhile to add variety to my gaming sessions.
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