One stick moves your craft. The other determines where you’ll be shooting stuff. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s been the formula for pretty much every dual stick shooter throughout the past generation of console gaming. Whether it’s the brilliant Super Stardust or that awful Ghostbusters game from last year, it’s a very well used and well known formula. So how does a developer make their game a bit more interesting and stand out from the crowd? By making every single game totally different, that’s how.
By randomly generating the levels each time you start the game, you’ll never experience the same thing more than once, taking away that inclination to spend hours learning enemy patterns and ideal routes through the action. You’ll never know when a new wave of enemies will pop up, when a powerup will be nearby or when you’ll need to turn your drill on to fly through the middle of a planet in one piece. It’s a true breath of fresh air, and those of you who don’t like the stereotypical rinse and repeat nature of twin-stick shooters will have a great time.
And yet the game seems to revolve around online scoretables to keep the action alive. We’ve seen this used to great effect recently (take a bow Joe Danger) and gives gamers an instant idea of how they’re doing against their friends. Strange, then, that each level is so very different. Some might have loads of enemies, whereas others might gives you tougher terrain to navigate. With it being so impossible to perfectly match any one game to another it’s never a perfectly level playing field, which slightly takes the edge off the comparisons. That said, the game does a good job of dynamically changing itself to match your playing abilities, so if you seem to be doing a little too well the difficulty will take a leap during your game. With this giving you a realistic challenge every time you can forget about ever thinking this is a walk in the park. You’ll be able to upgrade your ship too, picking up new and improved weapons to fling at the enemies. There’s plenty to try out, so if you want to try everything you’ll need to put the time in to gain all of the points required to improve your craft.
Big Sky Infinity is also the latest in the growing list of games which let you pay once and download it onto both your PS3 and Vita, giving you a fun blast at home, or some good entertainment while you’re out and about. But it’s not without its problems, and some of them are a bit more jarring than others. The most immediately obvious issue is the voice-over, which starts off being mildly amusing for a few minutes and borrows some phrases you may recognise from elsewhere (it’s a bewildering range… I noticed quotes from both Metal Gear Solid and Round the Horne, a 1960s Kenneth Williams radio comedy), but it gets very repetitive very quickly. Luckily you can switch it off, something I suspect most people will do within the first half hour of playing. The biggest issue though is just how colourful everything can be – this in itself isn’t a problem, shooters like this can really benefit from bursts of colour, but not when the enemy’s projectiles are the same colour as said backgrounds. It’s tough enough when playing on a TV through the PS3, but on the Vita it must be a nightmare. Add to that the occasional slow-down on the controls when things go a bit crazy, and you’ve got a bit of a patchwork game.
And that’s probably the best way of explaining Big Sky Infinity. On the whole it’s great, and when you’re on a roll and things are working as they should it feels great to play. You’ll go minutes without blinking, feeling like an utter badass right up until the point that the whole colour palette changes and you can’t see what’s going on any more. There are a fair few game modes to unlock, and even a multiplayer option that is a good laugh, but the other social side – the leaderboards – are a little irrelevant with every game being different to the next. It’s almost as if the developers had a huge bag of great ideas, but just couldn’t piece them together quite right. But it’s a very promising title, and if you’re a fan of your twin-stick shooters then you’ll have a ball.
Reviewed on PS3