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‘Starseed’ Hands-On Preview: a Shoot ’em Up with Great Potential

Starseed was a game that immediately captivated once the first glimpses of footage at it were revealed. It’s a shoot ’em up with an intersting style that uses depth in limited ways, with conscious layering. The question was how would the game play? I got my hands on an early demo version of the game, and I must say, Starseed has potential.

So how does the game flow work? You fly into a base, taking out enemies as you fly into the orbit of the station. Once orbit is locked, the shields drop, and you can start taking out the specific pain points that you need to destroy in order to complete the level. Once everything is blown up, there’s debris that you need to avoid. Right now, the game goes from level to level, without tracking score, but it’s easy to see where score could be cumulative over time, with a limited number of lives to make it as far as possible. Oh, and all the ships are named after classic rock and metal references, such as Whitesnake, and Sabbath.

I like the three-prong approach to each level. It fits neatly into a three-act structure of sorts: you have the rising action of approaching the ship, seeing in the background how the orbit straightens out. Then there’s the climax of trying to destroy the station, annihilating its weak points while dealing with leftover ships. Then, the denouement of escaping from the leftover bits. It’s all an entertaining process. You have limited tools to use: just your default blaster, and the myriad powerups that come along to help out. But there’s no bombs or weapon switching to deal with.

What I’m interested to see long-term is if the game can mix things up with the levels. A vareity in level designs in terms of the stations you hae to raid would be welcome. Ones with lots of targets, or maybe one big target that you get only short moments to destroy in your orbit would be interesting to play through. There’s lots of ways that you could make a game like this have a bit of variety to it, and I hope it does go that way. I’d be fascinated if the ships that you transform into had different weapons and effects over time. Plus, will this game be one where you play through random levels that you unlock over time, much like how Anodia 2 (Free) works? Or will there be a campaign to play through? Structurally, there’s a lot of options for Starseed.

One of the things that I was really worried about with the game was that it would be a bit nauseating to play: I felt a bit queasy watching the first footage, what with the space station rotating in parallax with the game. Thankfully, this effect is mitigated by you having to focus on the top layer of enemies, which helps to keep things from being too crazy to deal with, visually. Otherwise, the game does look great, and has a fantastic style to it, with the way everything seems intentionally like they’re flat layers on top of each other, but I would like if this game felt as comfortable to play as possible.

But any complaints or concerns I have feel like they can eaily be addressed at some point. The controls are very good, and comfortable to use without any tweaks, though a sensitivity slider is available. And the game’s very blocky, clearly-layered style still looks fantastic. Starseed is showing some definite promise, and I look forward to this interesting shoot ’em up as its development continues.