Son of Scoregasm is a twin-stick shooter from Charlie’s Games. Charlie’s Games is a one-man developer studio, something we don’t see very much over on the console front so I was eager to find out just how well one man can stand up against studios with numerous people working on a similar game within the genre. The game may be light on story but it’s heavy on action and doesn’t hold back on the difficulty. However, will the game be a ‘great twin-stick shooter’ or a ‘great, big twin-stick pooper’? Let’s find out…
Son of Scoregasm has one of the strangest stories I have experiences in a long time, bare with me on this one. Evil aliens have stolen the King of Earth’s beloved biscuit tin which was full of all of his precious biscuits which he clearly can’t pop down to his local Tesco (other supermarkets are available) and restock. You have been assigned with the duty of recovering these biscuits through 28 varied levels that are literally crammed to the brim with enemies, traps, lasers and massive explosions. You must venture through a ‘choose-your-own mission’ map as you work towards saving the galaxy, rescuing the biscuits and defeating the bosses. However, it won’t be an easy ride and I really hope you have the patience of a saint!
The game begins by placing you into a level called ‘Gentle start’, however, the game is anything BUT ‘gentle’. Each level consists of a small arena in various shapes, almost small enough to fit the whole arena on the vita screen. You control a small spaceship which you move with the left stick and aim/fire with the right stick – the controls are solid, if you die due to flying into an enemy spaceship then it is your fault, as there is no lag or delay in the controls at all on the Vita. However, initially, I spent a very long time completing the first level over and over and receiving zero points, this is because I hadn’t been using the games unique mechanic/ability, a pulse attack.
You perform the pulse attack by pressing one of the shoulder buttons, this sends out a short EMP style pulse which turns all enemies which are within range into multiplier tokens which quickly gravitate towards your ship as you continue to play. If you do not use this move and insist on only shooting the enemies then you will end the level with a multiplier of zero, hence the zero points I had in my runs as anything times zero equals zero! However, in order to use the pulse attack, you must get very, very close to the enemies (if they were people then, so close you can see the whites of their eyes) which can be pretty risky in this game. Massive scores aren’t required to progress in the game but they are if you wish to earn medals and get placed decently on the world leaderboards.
The pulse attack is also immensely useful in clearing the massive onslaught of enemies you receive during gameplay. As you kill more and more enemies, your gun evolves from a single stream of bullets to a triple shot and beyond, this is essential as at times I could have sworn there were about 50+ enemies on screen, chasing after me. This is where you would take a risk and get a bit closer and use your pulse attack as not only will it instantly wipe out a large chunk of them but it will also bag you a massive multiplier bonus (which stays with you until you die). It’s been a while since I’ve played a twin-stick shooter which concentrates on the genre and delivers a rock-solid shooting mechanic which works great and rewards you for taking risks.
As I mentioned above, the levels consist of a small arena placed within various shapes; however, the game does change it up a little as you progress by adding new mechanics into the environment. An example of these new mechanics would be a level which requires you to shoot massive rolling-pin style objects to crush the enemies and levels with areas created by lasers that constantly shrink until you shoot certain points in order to make them expand. The dev aims to keep the game interesting and new, which I feel it delivers with no issues in terms of the level design.
Once you complete a level, you are given a choice of a red or green portal. Basically, the game is allowing you to chose an easier or harder path as you progress through the game – this will result in you taking a different route on the map and ultimately a different boss battle and ending. The issue here is that even if you decide to go the ‘easy’ route and you have the game set to ‘normal’ difficulty, you will still have an intense challenge if you wish to try and aim for any of the in-game medals, nevermind the PSN trophies. It may just be me as during my JYDGE review I mentioned how difficult it was, yet a few days after launch people had already platinumed that title. However, Son of Scoregasm has been out for three months now and has yet to have anyone at 100% on PSN. The difficulty is something which ultimately affects my ability to recommend this game to new-comers to the genre as I believe it would frustrate and put people off; however, I can also see this being appealing to a certain group of people who love the challenge and live and breath twin-stick shooter games.
If you do pick this game up, due to a large number of levels and branches, there is plenty to work your way through and the game does have a decent ‘continue’ process. If you complete a level and move onto the next then die, you can either return to the start (as your score and multiplier move with you from level to level) or you can restart the level you are on but have your score reduced to zero. If you are aiming for the in-game medals then you will probably want to return to the start as each level is only a few minutes long, but the game operates on a ‘one strike(hit) and you’re out’ method. So, even though you may not obtain all the medals and all the trophies for a while, you can still progress at your own pace and it feels great when you finally get past a level that’s been beating you over and over again.
The visuals are quite basic, I believe they had to be due to the number of enemies and effects which occur on-screen during gameplay to keep it at a steady framerate. That being said, the visuals do look sharp and crisp on the Vita screen (my model is the OLED version) and the gameplay is very fast and silky smooth. If I was to compare the game to something like Geometry Wars 3 or Resogun (a little different, but same genre) then I would say this game lacks the visual oomph that they have – although, you do have to remember that this game was made by one man and focuses more on the gameplay than the graphics. The game is a sequel to ‘Scoregasm’, a PC game from 2011; however, Scoregasm looks a lot more detailed and colourful so maybe it was hardware limitations or perhaps it was a nod to old-school games in the genre?
The music is surprisingly relaxing, which is a polar opposite of whats happening in terms of gameplay! This match-up feels really good and the two fit together perfectly as it helps keep your stress levels down a little as you die over and over again. The sound effects also fit perfectly but I couldn’t find any options menu with sound controls as it seems the sound effects are a bit too loud as they drown out the music as the action gets more intense on the screen so I would have liked the option to lower the sound effects or increase the music.
Son of Scoregasm, at it’s best, is a great example of how to do a twin-stick shooter correctly. It has prioritised gameplay over graphics in order to deliver a silky smooth, fast, intense experience on the ageing PS Vita hardware. The game does come with a very steep difficulty hike though which could ultimately put people off, along with its one-hit death mechanic and unforgiving hordes of enemies. If you are looking for a challenge and you love this genre then I believe you will really enjoy this game, if you are a new-comer to the genre then you may want to start out with something a little more forgiving at first.
**Code kindly porvided by the publisher for review purposes**
Son of Scoregasm£5.79
- Smooth, fast-paced action
- Loads of levels to keep you busy for hours
- Perfect soundtrack to counter the intense action
- Really good, varied level design
- Great for short pick up and play sessions
- The difficulty is a bit too intense for newcomers
- No volume control and the sound effects do drown out the great music
- Visually, it is nothing special (read the review for my thoughts)