In Space, No One Can Hear You Start Over
HIGH Striking visuals and a great sense of humor.
LOW Once again, I am asking why every game I play now is so hard.
WTF Yeah, there’s too much going on.
I’ve written about countless indie games that take oldschool genres and fuse them with others. Whether it’s racing games that also play like endless runners, or even 3D platformers that have soulslike elements, it’s always interesting to see what devs can come up with. These kinds of combinations make for some interesting and often surprising experiences.
Project Starship X is a sendup of old school shoot-’em-up games (or shmups as they are affectionately known). Reminiscent of games like Raiden, Galaga, or Ikaruga, players pilot a ship on a vertical plane, firing at enemies and acquiring power-ups on the way.
While it looks like a standard arcade shooter on the surface (complete with gorgeous pixel art that reminds me of the Namco’s own space-themed titles) the twist comes from its roguelike elements. No, there isn’t any progression that carries over after each death, but the playing field randomizes before each run. Elements like enemy and power-up placement, minibosses and hazards change for every playthrough. Those minibosses, called “Mad Events,” come up at random spots and offer up significant challenges.
That challenge is present throughout the entire experience, as the difficulty feels ripped directly from the old arcade games it draws inspiration from. Enemies and hazards flood the playing field with countless shots coming from all different directions, and there’s even a slight amount of sensory overload thanks to all of the different elements flashing onscreen. The thrill of high-intensity gameplay never lets up.
During each run, players can earn different weapons and abilities, like bombs or turrets. Players also have a dash that allows them to dodge enemy attacks, though it’s on a cooldown. This added further variety to each enemy encounter, as I wasn’t just firing mindlessly, but also timing my dodges perfectly. It’s a cool loop that had me wanting to beat my high scores, and the scores of those on the leaderboards.
While the gameplay is tight, my favorite part of PSX is its presentation — namely its visuals and writing. Players can select different pilots, each reminding me of old-school sci-fi anime characters from things like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Mobile Suit Gundam. Their portraits are displayed onscreen reacting to things like dashing, getting shot at, and even dying. A lot of meta-humor creeps its way in as well, including references to previous runs. The script will do things like actively poke fun at the players after they die, as well as reference the number of times a level has been attempted.
Project Starship X is an enjoyable, stylish, and tough-as-nails shooter that tested my skills. While I have yet to get through all of its levels and master its gameplay, it’s a solid addition to the shmup genre that any fan should check into.
Disclosures: This game is published by Eastasiasoft and developed by Panda Indie Studio. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the singleplayer mode, and the game was not completed. No time was spent in multiplayer mode.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated T for Fantasy Violence, Language, and Mild Blood. The game is fairly safe for younger children, as most of the action on screen is all pixel art and is not gory or graphic.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available. Players who have seizures should be careful, this game features large amounts of flashing lights.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All the dialogue here is subtitled, with various visual cues alerting players of danger. While none of these things can be resized, the game is still fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable and there are no control diagrams. The face buttons/triggers are used to attack as well as dash, while the d-pad/control sticks are used to move.
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