Imagine yourself alone in a small room. Suddenly, shapes start appearing and come hurtling toward you. They close in. You dodge. Things look grim and boom, you’ve just turned all of them into glowing green lights and upped your score modifier significantly. This is our Son of Scoregasm review.
I never played 2012’s Scoregasm, but Son of Scoregasm is a sequel that the game’s one-man developer calls “a refinement of the original, with a much more focused score system, more options for exploring the map, more bosses, more biscuits and a great emphasis on variety in level designs.”
The game reminds me most of Geometry Wars which I loved. It’s a twin stick shooter that places you in a small arena and challenges you to fight off waves of spawning enemies, all while getting the highest score possible. It is Galaga for the modern era only a lot better. In addition to a variety enemies, the stages vary greatly, from the overall shape of the arena, to hazards (insta-death laser beams, giant rolling pins, etc.).
I was worried the trailer’s line regarding the “exciting new score mechanic” was all hype, but in truth I kind of love it. You have two attacks: your standard shmup laser, only these power up from a single shot to a triple shot the more enemies you kill and a short-ranged area of effect pulse attack which does massive damage.
Unlike similar twin sticker shoots, the pulse attack is intended to be used throughout, rather than be reserved even though it has a limited number of uses until you wait and/or kill more enemies. The pulse attack is the only way to get enemies to drop green orbs which boost your score modifier. To get a high score, you have to find a balance between the riskier pulse attack which rewards no points and the safer single/triple shot attack which rewards points but no bonuses to your modifier.
The result is almost rhythmic. As you begin to understand the enemy patterns and you improve at dodging the bullet hell this game can easily become on any level, the score mechanic becomes second hand. With the chill electronic soundtrack, I found myself getting absorbed into the balance of the shooting, the pulsing, and the dodging. Not that I was any good at it, but it reminded me of the zen you feel on a particular good run in Super Hexagon.
One concern with the sound design: turn down the SFX volume. On default, it overwhelms the music, which is a real shame.
As for the rest of the game’s design, I do have a few nitpicks.
First, though I love the overall aesthetic for its minimalism, the colors and graphics are a little too muted for my tastes, even at this price point ($9.99 on Steam). It doesn’t detract from the gameplay, but if you are like me and have eyes that have issues discerning certain colors then it can easily get in the way of tracking enemies. Plus, when you compare it to similar shooters like the previously mentioned Geometry Wars or even a game like Resogun, Son of Scoregasm just feels a little too spartan.
Second, there’s a story of some kind here involving the King of the Earth and biscuits (cookies for us Americans). It’s a bit tongue-n-cheek and not intended to be taken seriously, but I was hoping it would be funnier. It does help differentiate the game from other good twin stick shooters, but I found myself ignoring it almost immediately.
Finally, there’s the question of the game’s challenge. I found it a lot more accessible than most similar games, but it is the kind of game you have to work out and practice. That certainly applies to me as well. I have barely scratched the games surface, and yet I find myself going back again and again to the same levels hoping to improve my scores. You can pick different difficulty modes, which helps, but even on the easiest difficulty, when you finish a level, you are present two options, a green exit and an orange exit. The orange exit is always harder, so be forewarned.
Son of Scoregasm is an easy recommendation to make to anyone that loves twin sticker shooters or challenging indie arcade games. For everyone else, your mileage may vary depending on your patience. Beyond a ridiculously fun scoring system, a ton of unique levels, multiple enemies and bosses, and a solid soundtrack, Son of Scoregasm is good ole fashioned shoot ‘em up fun. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it is easily one of the most refined iterations of it yet.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a Steam key provided by PR.
- Innovative scoring mechanic that makes replaying levels for better scores fun.
- Varied levels, including boss battles and other level hazards.
- Challenging and a good fit for fans of twin-stick shooters.
- Muddled graphics can sometimes make it hard to follow the action.
- Not the best entry point into the genre for newcomers. Difficulty may turn off some players.