Perhaps it can be said that with all the complicated games that we’ve had in this day and age, minimalism and simplicity have become what quite a lot of gamers have started to look for. Either its going back to the gaming of yesteryear like Shovel Knight or something new but also barebones in looks and feel like a lot of indie titles in recent years, it seems that less is now definitely more. However, there are times when what’s less may be a bit too little after all.
Pulstar is a cool-looking twin stick shooter developed by Concave Studio and published by Indietopia Games, not to be confused with the classic shmup for the Neo Geo. This genre usually take refuge these days in mobiles and consoles, but PC ports do come up from time to time and there is a fanbase for them. It’s a good excuse for players to plug in their pad controllers to their PC for some fun with the analog sticks, which is where the genre’s name comes from. Pulstar is pretty good at being an entertaining twin stick shooter that fulfills most of the criteria to be good. Take note though, that’s “most” of the criteria, not all.
What strikes most people at first with this game is the look of it. The visuals are very striking, with bright colors and flashy effects that fill up the screen whenever you shoot at stuff. It’s a bit like Beat Hazard in terms of the volume of effects that come up on the screen all at once, but much smoother looking. If you’re into games that look like the insides of neon tube lighting, then you’ll take to this one like a duck to water. But if you’re either an epileptic or someone with astigmatism or other troubles with distinguishing bright objects, then this game could literally be blinding.
It sounds pretty good too, with a soundtrack that fits the gameplay and gets players in the mood for the action. The gameplay mechanics themselves are explained in easy-to-follow tutorial screens that make more sense as you play through the game. There are different enemy types to kill and power-ups to pick up, and you can only get hit a few times before you get killed, considering the volume of projectiles you have to avoid at any time in order to stay alive. On its own, it’s a solid twin stick shooter on its own.
Pulstar does live up to its spacey name with its aesthetics. However, in terms of content, it’s not like the vastness of space at all. It’s the twin stick shooter gameplay with no other trimmings, basically like Geometry Wars that came out as early as 2003 for the early Xbox. This game came out in 2014 for the PC, which means that it’s basically a mini-game. Some might say that its the depth of gameplay that truly dictates its quality and substance, but it doesn’t do much at all. It can also be mentioned again that you might not be able to see anything clearly while playing it.
You can play it and get the highest scores and kill streaks that you can ever get, but it’s still not enough. Putting something like this out for the PC does not cut it anymore in this day and age, especially with an increasingly fickle audience who are finding more and more ways to get the most bang for their buck with various digital distributors with their own sales and promos, as well as bundles of all sorts for getting a bunch of games for a song or two.
If it were a mobile release priced at $1, then it would be more forgivable as it would still serve as an entertaining distraction. But costing $5 for the PC, there are a lot more more fleshed out games out there for that price. It does look great and plays well enough, but the lack of substantial content makes it desirable only for its looks. Maybe you can get it in a sale with its price slashed off, but it may not even last you a while if you’re not that into twin stick shooters.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 4/10