Thursday, August 06, 2020

Planet Smashers: no planets in sight

By 1990, the concept of scrolling shooters was well established, and the new Mega Drive had some excellent examples available at (and shortly after) launch.  There had been a number of conversions of R-Type to home computers and consoles.  People knew how to make shooters exciting.

On first impressions, Planet Smashers is not exciting.  A sparse backdrop (a few scrolling stars) is not a promising start, and the graphics are nothing special - even when considering the capabilities of the 7800.  Your ship is various shades of grey with a blue cockpit, enemy ships are mainly grey, your status bar is grey.  Grey.

The game gets a bit deeper than "BLAST ALIENS" though.  In order to progress through the stages, you have to collect warp capsules, which enemies drop at random.  These capsules are one main colour, which you can change by shooting them.  You have to collect them in the right order to complete the warp sequence, and you will only know of that order by collecting random colours and seeing if the three warp boxes at the bottom left flash.

This takes quite a bit of concentration - and it's likely that you'll be killed by a wayward shot while watching for the flashing signal.  Avoiding the bullets and the suicidal enemies takes some skill.

After collecting the three warp colours, and after the existing enemies have scrolled off the screen (creating an odd pause which I couldn't figure out for quite some time), the boss appears.  The first boss resembles a Dreamcast or original Xbox controller in some ways.

It is seemingly impossible to avoid all the bullets coming from the boss, so to get past this stage you will need a lot of luck, a lot of lives, or both.  I had both only once, and progressed on to the next part - where you start again, with different warp colours.

It's not a bad game, as such, but sitting here in 2020 there are countless other, better, games you could play instead.  Had this come out in 1986, it would be an interesting stage of evolution of the vertical shooter.  As it is, it's just a bit dull.