By Eric Pankoke on Wed, 04/21/2010
When I played the original Radio Flare, I guess I didn’t “get it”, because while the game was okay I wasn’t overly impressed with it. Now we have Radio Flare Redux, and while I’m still not sure I “get it”, I think this is a marked improvement over the first game, and I really like this version. It still has moments where it can get as hectic as a traditional shooter, but by its very nature it’s a much more relaxing type of game. The visuals are odd, the music is good, and the overall feeling of the game is not quite like anything you’ve played before (unless, of course, you’ve played Radio Flare). It’s definitely an experience for those who feel they’ve played it all when it comes to vertical shooters.
There’s no real story behind this that I can tell. Basically you’re traveling to a bunch of different planets in several different sectors, kicking tail and not taking names. You don’t have to defeat the planets in order, necessarily, but only a certain amount will be available to begin with, and you’ll unlock new planets by doing well on the ones that you can visit. You do well by earning points, which then turn into stars. You can earn a maximum of 5 stars per level, and you can go back to a level at any time to try and earn more stars. You get points by shooting enemy ships. The more ships you shoot at once, the more points you earn. On the flip side, you can lose stars by getting hit by ships or bullets. I don’t think you lose any points, but a lost star cannot be recovered. If you lose all five stars you must start the level over. However, if you’ve already beaten the level at least once, you’ll just go back to the highest number of stars you’ve earned on that level.
Combat is quite interesting. To target the enemy you press on the screen and drag your finger over one or more ships. You won’t fire until you let go of the screen, and beyond that you won’t fire except on the beat. Yes, one of the things that is different about the Radio Flare universe is that combat is intricately tied to the music. This is really important to remember, because if you let enemies get too close thinking you’ll blast them as soon as you pick your finger up, you might be unpleasantly surprised. Believe me, I’ve been there. There’s not a huge selection of ship types, but what’s there is fun and varied enough to keep things interesting. There’s no standard attack formation used from level to level, so each world feels like a fresh mini-game. Speaking of which, the levels for the most part are fairly short, so playing them several times to get more stars is not a burden, and can actually be quite fun as you try and determine what to change to get a better score.
The game uses Crystal as its social network, and while I’ve played several games that use the service I’ve never really delved into it any more than I have any of the other services. I mainly use the services because I like going for the achievements, and there are several to shoot for in Radio Flare Redux. What I do like about the way that the service is integrated is that I can go to a menu called missions and see what achievements I have left to accomplish, so I never actually have to get into Crystal if I don’t want. It would be nice to see other developers do that with other services.
The visuals are quite interesting in Radio Flare Redux. The space ship designs aren’t honestly all that great. There’s just enough detail to know that they are ships, and the grey tones are honestly kind of blah – at least in and of themselves. What makes the visuals work in this case is the background, which almost feels like a rip off of the visualizer from Windows Media Player. The background pulses in time with the music, and creates an overall effect that’s really cool. Also, barring the fact that you have to get hit to see it, there’s a nifty reverse colors and wave effect when you collide with a ship or bullet.
The sound effects are really pretty low key, which normally kind of bugs me. However, since this game is supposed to be about the music, it actually works pretty well. As for the music, it varies greatly depending on the planet. Since these are remixes of existing songs, a lot of your preference here will most likely depend on whether or not you like the original song. Of course, I haven’t actually heard of most of the songs used, but I did enjoy some of them. The important thing is how the music integrates with the action, and that is well done on every planet.
As I said in the beginning, the Radio Flare series is definitely unlike anything you’ve ever played before when it comes to shooters. As a general rule I wouldn’t want all my shooters to play this way, but it’s actually a nice change of pace. I get so used to the hectic, bullet riddled nature of most horizontal shooters that I often don’t know what to do with myself in this game because it’s rare to have bullets on the screen at all. The style certainly isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but if you’re any kind of scrolling shooter fan I encourage you to check it out. You probably won’t be disappointed.
Overall Score: 8/10
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