Ever since the original Geometry Wars came packaged with Project Gotham Racing 2 in 2003, twin-stick shooters – branching out of classic arcade shooter games – has gained a lot of steam. Housemarque continued to break boundaries in the arcade/twin-stick genre with their PlayStation 3 debut Super Stardust, wrapping the level around a planet, before experimenting more with level design and RPG mechanics in their subsequent IPs Dead Nation, Resogun, Alienation and the criminally underrated Nex Machina. Now, one-man developer Charlie Knight (under the moniker of Charlie’s Games) has released a refined and expanded version of his computer game Scoregasm with the new title Son of Scoregasm.
Let’s get this sorted first. “Hey, what’s up with that name?” Yes, yes, it’s very giggly; I know. Would you expect any less from the maker of Space Phallus, which Charlie himself describes as “a game about shooting cocks with the disembodied head of a dog” that’s “very hard and over all too quickly?” But if you’ve got kids, don’t worry; the title is the only inappropriate thing about Son of Scoregasm. The setup is that aliens have stolen the king’s biscuits so you’re naturally deployed to kill them all in your spaceship.
So, rather than try to totally reinvent the wheel, Charlie scaled things back down with his new title to fit in with early-mid 2000s twin-sticks – and that is not a complaint. By once again confining us to small arenas and short but crowded rounds full of aliens, Son of Scoregasm ups the sense of urgency and claustrophobic strategy that’s fallen by the wayside in recent years with many games. While level size may sound like a minor component in an arcade shooter, nothing could be further from the truth. Often with Housemarque’s titles I’ve felt a sense of security that when things get too enemy-heavy, I can escape a screen away and recuperate, slowly inching my way back into the fray. There’s no place for retreat here. I’m very much a non-expert at difficult games – to date, the only titles I’ve ever beaten on their hardest difficulties are Crysis 2 and the first two Guitar Heroes – so I found Son of Scoregasm to be challenging and engaging. To help suckers like me, Charlie has included branching pathways of progression – upon beating each level, players can pick between two choices for their next level, based on difficulty. New levels add variety in both level design (one early level has two spiked rolling pins you must continue to shoot away from you as enemies try to roll over you with them) and enemy type and amount.
Besides moving with the left stick and 360-degree firing with the right, your ship has a localized bomb/pulse weapon that you can use to help clear out baddies who get too close for comfort. But here’s the twist: not only does the bomb recharge based on your regular cannon firing, but the two also depend on each other for earning your score. Shooting enemies directly earns points; blowing them up adds to your multiplier. It won’t be long before you’ve developed your own method of balancing the two for optimal high scores and survival.
Aesthetically, Son of Scoregasm is pleasant – almost quaint – in its early 2000s shtick. I was actually thrilled that its sound effects and visuals reminded me of a similar genre favorite of mine, 2005’s Mutant Storm Reloaded (which, by the way, needs to be re-released on iOS *cough cough*). It may not push the Vita’s hardware to its limits, but it’s pretty and it runs buttery smooth.
So for $10 USD, it’s a steal. Son of Scoregasm didn’t change my arcade gaming life like the first time I played Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on 360 or Dead Nation on ps3, but it’s fun, it’s challenging and it’s great for quick-fix gaming. There’s not much else to say about this one besides “Go get it.” I’m giving Son of Scoregasm an 8 out of 10.
AIR Entertainment was provided a review copy of Son of Scoregasm by Charlie’s Games.