Super XYX from publisher Team Grybanser Fox has landed on Steam this week and it is a real retro shmup fest. Following on from their previous games this scrolling shooter aims to pump the nostalgia gland. True to form the team have produced a very playable blaster featuring six levels crammed with enemies to take down. Each level has a large boss at the end and there are secrets to uncover along the way. Add in the bombs, power ups and pixel and we have a real treat on our hands.
The year is 3999, humanity has long colonised itself across the galaxy. Devouring new worlds for their resources, enjoying the interstellar life of luxury, more or less friendly interactions with other alien races. That was until an ancient threat has awakened from it’s slumber. The Black Serpent, the great destroyer of worlds. He’s back and he’s about to make the Milky Way, his greatest feast yet. The story is mostly irrelevant and takes a firm back seat to the shooting action.
Super XYX is a no nonsense vertical shooter that harks back to the glory days of shmups. You take control of one of two ships initially but several more can be unlocked as you improve. It is your job to make it through the alien horde and win the day. It features short levels with interesting enemy types and attack formations. Super XYX does not quite reach bullet hell status but there is a great mix of homing fire and waves that keep the action frantic. Experienced shmup players will feel right at home swooping from left to right avoiding the onslaught while trying to defeat all the enemies.
The real skill in Super XYX is not dying. Just like shmups of old, getting through a level without dying grants big score bonuses. It also gives you the chance to unlock bonus stages as you progress. The bonus stages are small sections of the six main levels thrust together in quick succession with different bosses and enemy waves to destroy. Staying alive is tricky and you will need to remember the attack patterns and movements to succeed. There is real relief if you manage to get through and watching the bonuses rack up at the level end is satisfying. Score junkies will have lots to aim for here as will you 1cc champs.
An important aspect of any shmup is its scoring system. Super XYX keeps this simple with points for chaining attacks into combos and collecting medals. The more you chain and collect, the bigger your score. At the end of each level bonuses are awarded for your total combo and medal count as well as lives left. Enemies will drop bigger medals if you destroy them in combination there is an end of level award for getting all enemies. This system is great for high score junkies and those that love to see those huge numbers. However, the system is easy to crack if hard to master so this effects longevity.
The other important aspect is the power ups. They come in two forms dropped by item pods that you shoot open. The first is a simple fire upgrade and the second add additional guns to your sides. The initial starting ships are your classic spread shot and focus shot craft. The game being much easier to complete with the spread shot. Both crafts power up immensely and it satisfying building up your fire power before the boss. The bombs are very generous and can be used at any stage of a level. The bosses are easily taken down though as bombs also destroy all onscreen attacks. The other unlockable ships each have different weapons so trying the game with all adds to the longevity.
Controlling your chosen ship feels tight and any deaths belong to you. There were not many cheap deaths during my play-through. The game feels fair and you will enjoy building up your memory of the stages. Two difficulty stages can be selected once you work out where the hidden options menu is. By hidden, I mean having to look for the extra option page and switching screens. A good variety of control options is present and you can fiddle with the game mechanics to make it easier or harder. Hit boxes are generous and may leave experienced players disappointed, there were times I thought I was definitely dead only to find myself still flying.
The pixel art is gorgeous with vibrant colours and decent animation. Each level looks distinctively different with some high points being the alien mothership and a sea level. Bosses crowd the screen but are not classic. They are more functional and most have weak bullet patterns. But they are fun to battle and the explosion and effects are excellent. The sounds are loud and crisp and the music is functional but not outstanding. PC Shmup lovers will do well to get better value for money with this classy shooter romp. Out now on Steam.