A few years ago, side-scrolling shooters where as inevitable as an EA Sports annual release, but since the new generation of consoles, it’s not a genre we’ve seen much of but suddenly, a new competitor shifts in to view, Solar Shifter EX.
Like any shoot em-up before, the main aim is too shoot everything that moves, there’s a light story but initially you’re told to collect credits, and you get credits by blowing up the invading pirate ships.
Roll forward a few minutes and twice as many deaths, and you’ll probably be tempted to turn off or throw your controller, but it’s well worth giving it just a few more tries.
Soon enough, like a childhood memory embedded into your brain, you’ll start to pick up the patterns, finding a perfectly safe place to stay as the swarms of on coming enemies miss their target and fly straight into your bullets, progress past these initial waves and you have your first boss battle.
Boss battles aren’t that tough as you usually have a warning of red arrow’ed lines to avoid and can move up to them shooting the large ship, this wont always work later on but it’s enough to get you back to the hangar for the first time.
Here’s when things start to get interesting, because you’re given a secondary weapon. It’s not your everyday useless secondary you’ll never touch, this beauty fires automatically and seems to deal considerably more damage than your initial pea-shooter.
Suddenly enemies are falling far quicker, and due to your own fire-power there’s a little more room to manoeuvre when there’s swarms of enemies heading straight for you.
It’s not all hide and shoot though, as Solar Shifter EX offers a new dynamic by way of shifting location. It’s been seen before, but not quite in this context as a push of the right analogue stick will instantly warp your ship to the left, right, bottom or middle of the screen.
This is especially useful against future bosses who sweep the screen with their clearly highlighted beam weapons, which turn out pretty easy to avoid, but a 1-shot death which is sure to catch you out more than a few times.
Thankfully checkpoints are fairly generous and you’ll soon start working your way through a couple of missions to unlock your first of 12 generous (but mostly hard to achieve) achievements.
You’ll no doubt get stuck on a fair few levels, and learning safe spots sometimes takes more than a few attempts, but apart from a few hiccups it felt like I was constantly making some progress and even after completion it feels like a game you can return to for the occasional bout knowing progress is saved quite frequently.
The story also progresses as Aliens get involved and things change up a little with another ship, but anything other than the Shifter just isn’t as much fun or challenge.
Graphically it’s a pretty mixed bag, some of the scenery and explosions are very impressive and the dynamic angles on your progression are a welcome change to the old fashioned straight horizontal or vertical movement, however many of the ships seem lacking in detail, and sometimes there’s so much going on from your shots and resulting explosions, that you struggle to see incoming bullets and you’ll often lose half a bar of health without realising and then you’re left hoping for easy larger ships that drop the green health pick-ups.
Sound doesn’t quite hit the mark, with some mediocre voice acting and a pretty repetitive soundtrack, it’s not terrible, but I won’t be turning up the headphones full blast anytime soon.
Finally, It’s worth mentioning that just like the games of yesteryear, Solar Shifter EX wasn’t developed by a team of hundreds, this was the creations of one sole man, and credit has to go out to a job well done.