Every now and then something comes along that is so simple, intuitive and fun that it could quickly become a classic. Blue Rider is just that. Argentinian developer, Ravegan, have created something with enough nostalgic charm, cute visuals and pick up and play accessibility to grip you throughout it’s short experience, and it’s great.
From the second I launched the game is was clear that there are no frills. You got the obligatory developer screen, a short animation of the title, then that was it, straight into it. There was nothing in the way of extended menus, shop links, DLC teasers, nothing, just simple ‘start game’ and ‘menu’. There is only one level available at the start, the others being greyed out, that’s OK though because it makes the objective nice and clear. You play the part of a small spaceship with a basic weapon. The enemies initially are quite easy, their fire rate is low and pretty ineffective but that doesn’t last forever. The tried and tested twin sticks controls makes Blue Rider intuitive, with movement and firing feeling natural. If I had one little gripe about the movement it’s that at times it takes a while to change direction, due to the way your ship glides, making it feel a little unresponsive, especially while dodging the enemy. This is me being picky though, because it’s not a major concern it’s just how it is and something I got used too.
Graphically the levels are gorgeous, if you’re a frames per second fan then this won’t disappoint, as I saw no drops or glitches at all. That being said you won’t take much notice of the scenery as there are enough enemies and projectiles to keep your attention on the objective and not the leaves on the trees. It’s a cartoony aesthetic but it looks great, maintaining the same level of quality throughout the different locations each level covers.
The objective is clear: blow everything up to be able to move on, no confusion there. There are gates and doors that you can’t access unless you have cleared stages, but this doesn’t mean that you are endlessly searching for the one stubborn enemy that chose to camp it out, because the levels aren’t that big. There are more than enough enemies to focus your attention on though, and hidden away in the corners are collectibles that add a little more to each stage. However, the focus still relies on out manoeuvring the opposition to get your shot on target. There is the ability to upgrade your weapons as you go on, they stay with you too, which after reviewing another title recently where that doesn’t happen, makes a nice change.
The levels are well-designed with paths leading out to open spaces. A world map would have been a bonus but it’s not the end of the world that it doesn’t exist. At times you are faced with a bottle neck and a swarm of enemies at the other end, which creates a good excuse for spam firing as much as you can. Pickups are rare, this doesn’t help when your HP bar depletes as you fail to dodge bullets, so keeping your wits about you is important. At the end of each level is the boss, this is the only real place where you could get frustrated. There aren’t any moments before a boss fight where you suddenly come across power-ups and health, so you’re fighting with what you’ve got. The boss has mechanics and patterns that take some getting used to, and guess what? you don’t have lives or checkpoints. When you die it’s back to the beginning of the level, and whilst the levels may be fairly brief, it can get a little frustrating. So purely for the no lives system I’m knocking 0.5 off my overall score, yep I’ve thrown my teddy out the pram. Thankfully, in Blue Riders defence, it’s not a major task getting to the boss and next time you may have a better power-up, so it can be forgiven for that little detail.
With the game only having ten levels, it doesn’t take long to see all that’s on offer, especially as it’s a joy to play. Its simple approach has proven to be one of Blue Rider’s strong points, with the ability to pick it up and play without any fuss definitely feeling refreshing and something I will go back to time and time again. No news on any DLC though, which is a shame but less is more sometimes.
Thanks to Xbox and Ravegan for supporting TiX