Controlling the size of the swarm of ships in Shoot 1Up reminds me of controlling the size of the swarm of swarmites in a game I reviewed a while ago called Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Despite its name, Banjo-Kazo Swarm squandered its swarms; once crammed into a generic platform-dasher I wasn’t guiding 50 little creatures in a collective so much as steering a nebulus blob of incidental, if rather slick, animations.
Shoot 1Up, as its name suggests, adds another gun-toting ship straight into the action with each 1Up gained. It makes the abstract extra life a reality. It makes commanding a crazed spaceship armada even crazier. More importantly it makes Shoot 1Up a shmup I can finally play.
Shmups, a contraction of the latin shoot-uppa-lic-gradius, is a genre I loved only from afar. If I had a proper camera, I’d take time-lapse photographs of bullet-hell patterns and hang them on my wall. I’d resort to photography because I can’t actually play the likes of Ikaruga or Radiant Silvergun– certainly not for very long anyway. I’m an outsider with dulled reflexes who, and I say this as a recovering physicist, hates memorising patterns. Shoot 1Up‘s spawn/swarm conceit delivers the classic risk/reward gameplay in a forgiving and accessible way, which is so over-the-top and fun, it’s probably the best way.
Contract the ships to finely dodge and weave among enemy fire; expand your forces to coat the screen in bullets and beams and collect points from dropped enemies. Nuance and depth stem from the simple design: the multiplier increases as the ships are spread apart; sacrificed ships deal out kamikaze damage; pausing from the constant firing to take advantage of the shield bursts scores more points still; the powerful beam eminating from the cente of your phalanx (don’t laugh) provides a visual centre-of-mass to follow amidst the chaos; you can nudge the ships into shape using the side of the screen. The last one probably doesn’t matter but, like the rest of Shoot 1Up’s subtleties, it feels good.
Perhaps these things aren’t innovative at all and are completely pedestrian to the shmup afficienados. Or you yourself are in fact one with one-credit run. At least I’m not one of those reviewers who fake their way through “genre” games. I remember eye-rolling at many of the StarCraft II reviews using thousands of words to reword the back of the box. I’m just saying, I hope your eyes aren’t strained too badly from all this.
In the most creatively stressing and brave challenge to shmup conventions, points appear not as weird orbs or obscure symbols but floating 80s sci-fi bank notes. That over there is worth 1,200,000 points because it’s a rectangle with “1,200,000 points” written on it- that’s worth chasing down. Like many arcade point-chasers it’s only worth fighting for if there is a leaderboard to chase and shame, but alas there is none. If only there were some sort of readily available, socially-integrated network we all use to update challengers on our status and prowess.
Shoot 1Up costs a measly 80 Microsoft points. That’s less than £1, $1, one anything. It comes out at 70p which almost made me close this review with a Kinder Egg analogy. Decadent wrapper, fine chocolate, excellent toy- feel free to assemble it in the comments. I don’t recommend Shoot 1Up because it’s cheap. I recommend because its natural design and clever innovation busted open the shmup genre like some piñata that was always just out of reach. You should make a note of developer Mommy’s Best Games because you aren’t going to see a deal anywhere near this great outside of The Orange Box.