Shoot First is, officially, a “co-op Action Roguelike” by the creator of Action Fist, Beau. If Desktop Dungeons is a cross between Nethack and Minesweeper, Shoot First is a cross between Nethack and the overhead-view stages of Super Contra.
The presentation is dusted with artifacts of retro glam grime. The simple three-button controls (shoot, strafe/use/pick up, and map) are snappy and responsive. Collisions and sound effects are crunchy and squelchy. On a superficial level it’s all very cozy and warm to sink into. Scattered in treasure chests are equipment and various weapons, each with its own uses. As you shoot enemies and collect stuff, your character levels up. As you level up, your weapons upgrade in various ways. Also along the way you can find or rescue followers, who trail after you and mimic your actions rather like Gradius Options.
The first thing you’ll think of when you see Spanish developer Locomalito’s Hydorah, and the way you’ll probably see it described, is a Gradius tribute game. After you spend a few minutes with it, you’ll realize it feels more like Darius — the power-ups and weapon types, the progress map, the look of the shield, the wide and narrow playfield.
The save system is curious, and at first feels like it comes from the SNES era. Again that’s deceptive, as it’s a rather progressive mechanism. You have a total of three chances to save, that you can spend between any two levels in the game. So there’s a sort of self-pacing reminiscent of some recent console shooters like Ikaruga or Gradius V, that gradually offer more lives and more credits, the more hours you put in — except it’s more organic. As your skills improve, you can play further without saving, allowing you to conserve your save points for longer and gradually allowing you to expand your range.
The shooter is one of the most fundamental design templates, and so one of the most fruitful to dissect. On the analytical end, see Kenta Cho, Treasure, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and the Geometry Wars games.
Theta Games’ Ceramic Shooter – Electronic Poem, released about a month ago and slowly gaining attention, similarly takes advantage of the form.
Originally published by Next Generation.
Something is happening to game design. It’s been creeping up for a decade, yet only now is it striding into the mainstream, riding on the coattails of new infrastructure, emboldened by the rhetoric of the trendy. A new generation of design has begun to emerge – a generation raised on the language of videogames, eager to use that fluency to describe what previously could not be described.
First, though, it must build up its vocabulary. To build it, this generation looks to the past – to the fundamental ideas that make up the current architecture of videogames – and deconstructs it for its raw theoretical materials, such that it may be recontextualized: rebuilt better, stronger, more elegantly, more deliberately.
In the earlier part of this series, we discussed several games that exemplify this approach; we then tossed around a few more that give it a healthy nod. Some boil down and refocus a well-known design (Pac-Man CE, New Super Mario Bros.); some put a new perspective on genre (Ikaruga, Braid); some just want to break down game design itself (Rez, Dead Rising). In this chapter, we will highlight a few of the key voices guiding the change. Some are more persuasive than others. Some have been been making their point for longer. All are on the cusp of redefining what a videogame can be. Continue reading “The New Generation – Part Two: Masterminds”