Space Tripper

Review - an arcade shooter for the new millenium?

- Pom PomSystem Requirements - Pentium III 400 or equivalent 64Mb RAM OpenGL graphics card

Rebirth of Arcade?

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Those of us old enough to remember the classic coin-ops and computer systems of yesteryear like to see this as some sort of golden age of gaming, when the primitive machines on offer meant that developers couldn't dazzle us with 3D graphics and instead had to rely on pure unadulterated gameplay.

Of course, it's all nonsense really - there were just as many bad games back then as there are today, and even the classics look rather simple compared to more recent titles. But this kind of rose-tinted nostalgia is why we all love games like Serious Sam which take us back to the mindless joystick-wrecking action of our childhood.

Space Tripper goes one better than Sam by taking the top-down shooter formula of the 1980s and simply updating it with impressive 3D accelerated graphics. There's nothing particularly subtle or sophisticated about this game, it's all about whizzing backwards and forwards along the length of the fourteen levels on offer, blasting away at anything that moves. As you make your way through the game you can get power-ups which will increase the strength of whichever of the two weapons - standard or scatter-fire - you have selected at the time, but that's about as complex as it gets.

Leave Your Brain At The Door

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There are a couple of dozen different enemies to blow up, varying from pop-up turrets and cannons to missile-firing tanks and fast-moving UFO-like vessels. Each enemy has its own strengths and weaknesses, and overall they're fairly well balanced.

Every section of the game also ends with its own unique boss, including giant tanks and mechanical spiders. Destroying these can be pretty challenging, as you will have to hit a particular weak spot to cause any damage, and in some cases this target can only be hit at certain times (such as when the boss is firing a particular weapon). You can also blast off their weapons one by one, which doesn't do any damage to the boss but does at least give you less to worry about.

If this is starting to sound a little tricky, that's because it is. Even on the inappropriately titled "Easy" setting the game is very difficult, and I struggled to get much past level five without cheating. It doesn't help that PomPom have stuck rigidly to the arcade formula by giving you three lives and no save game or staging system, just a high score table. Once you have been killed three times that's it, game over, and the next time you play you will have to start from the very first level all over again. While this obviously makes the game last a lot longer than it otherwise would, it also means that you spend most of your time playing the same half dozen levels over and over again. For today's gamers, spoilt by quick save keys and unlimited save game slots, it might all be a little frustrating.

Conclusion

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Space Tripper is an enjoyable and great looking game, perfect for when you just want to have a quick half hour blast on something without having to engage your brain. It's not for everyone, and the high difficulty level combined with the lack of any kind of save game system is likely to upset some people. But for arcade shooter fans looking for a blast from the past with state-of-the-art graphics, this is about as good as they come.

Best of all, it's shareware, which means you can download the first three levels of the game (weighing in at just 3.6Mb) for free to see if it's your cup of tea or not. And if you do fancy buying the full game it only costs $12 (about 8.50 at current exchange rates), which isn't going to break the bank. Head over to the Pom Pom website to find out more.

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