I recently bought and finished Alien Stars by Awem Studio. The fact that I bought it should tell you something â€“ this game is cool and addictive. Itâ€™s a vertically scrolling PC-based 2D shoot â€˜em up with 3D pre-rendered game objects. You fly through space and over planets (this alternates as you progress through the levels) and blast everything in sight, obtaining numerous power ups along the way, and fighting a big boss at the end of each level of course.
When I first saw some screenshots of this game, I thought that it was one of those space invader clones where the game doesnâ€™t scroll and you get wave after wave of Galaxian style aliens attacking you and your puny one shot weapon. Iâ€™m not a big fan of those sort of games because they feel too limited, but I decided to download this one and give it a chance. I was pleased that it was an instantly playable scrolling shoot â€˜em up. However, I found the mouse controls disturbing at first, because you can make your ship move in an unrealistic manner â€“ it feels a bit like cheating. But later on in the game, things get so hectic that youâ€™ll be really pleased you can do stupid maneuvers to avoid the mass of bullets and aliens populating the screen.
In fact, this game is reasonably hard from the outset, and gets much harder later on. So even though there are only 12 levels, itâ€™ll take you quite a few solid hours to complete the game. However, I didnâ€™t find it so hard that I wanted to give in, I was determined to fight on â€“ itâ€™s very addictive indeed.
The game is actually quite tactical as well as action packed. For example, you have a weapon energy bar that depletes when you shoot, and slowly recharges when you arenâ€™t shooting. As your weapons become more powerful the energy bar goes down much quicker, and when it runs out you frantically start firing off your missiles waiting for it to recharge or for a weapon energy power up to come floating past. Obviously your ship has shields, and the shield recharge power ups are spread throughout the level so that by the time they appear, you really need them. However, the power ups float down the screen very slowly, and this means that you can actually ignore them for a while before you pick them up. For example, instead of wasting the shield power up when you have full shields, you can fight on for quite a while and then grab the shield power up just before it floats off the bottom of the screen â€“ I got quite into this â€œpower up conservationâ€ technique.
It took me a little while to get used to the weapon power up system. Basically you get these coloured power up symbols appearing â€“ red, green and blue (in fact they slowly change colour). They each give you a different type of gun and if you collect lots of the same type your gun powers up nicely (but uses more energy). The thing is, if say you have a full power red gun and you pick up a blue weapon power up, you drop right back to a basic blue weapon, which can really screw you up. So weirdly, you actually end up avoiding certain coloured power ups like the plague when you are nicely kitted out with the weapon that you want to keep.
The bosses arenâ€™t too hard to start with; they just spew out tons of bullets/missiles and fire lasers in patterns that you learn whilst you slowly dismember them - but later on in the game they get quite a lot harder and youâ€™ll want to save a lot of your secondary weapons for them.
So then, thatâ€™s pretty much it â€“ great graphics, appropriate sound/music, very pro feel, addictive as hell, neat game. I liked it and Iâ€™m sure you will too; download the demo (~8Mb) and see if it's your cup of alien tea.