One look at Project Starship and your eyes may risk explosion. That was how I first felt when I laid my eyes on the games eye wateringly loud graphics. It has been a while since I’ve seen something as extremely garish as this but strangely when you start playing the game, it isn’t nearly as off-putting as the screenshots may show you.
This tale of misconception is one that plagues Project Starship. Upon playing the PS4 port of this PC shoot em up, are greeted without any real options or frills. Choose one of two spaceships, easy or hard mode and you are straight into the action. You’ll be tasked to complete five levels of shoot em up action, each one ending with a giant boss battle. If you come straight into the game without much research and conquer it on your first try, you might be shocked to see your experience was over in about 10 – 12 minutes. What on Earth did I just buy that for? Again… you’d be missing the mark.
Project Starship is entirely procedurally generated. The enemy placements, the enemies themselves – even the bosses – they are all selected from box of tricks the game has to offer. Patterns may become familiar but you will genuinely have a different experience each time you play. I was discovering new bosses on my fifth playthrough and that made me happy. Whilst I’m unsure of exactly how many things are in the game for it to pick from, it certainly mixes things up and that is Project Starship’s greatest asset. Helping you along the way is the games excellent retro soundtrack that grew on me immensely during my play time.
Elsewhere the game doesn’t quite fare so well. The characters are identical and both the bullets and the enemies are absolutely huge. They take up a disproportionate amount of the screen and that makes the game inherently easy to complete because your bullets are just as huge. You can power up your bullets, add missiles and upgrade your ship mid-run into a behemoth of a monster. If you are lucky with what is given, your bullets will even auto home in on what is coming. One playthrough I had, I barely saw anything on screen – it was just a line of my bullets killing things before I got to see them.
The game is also buggy. Any enemies that manage to escape your barrage of bullets should float back off the screen again but several times they got stuck at the bottom of the screen. That then meant I couldn’t use the full screen to my advantage. I still won. The worst culprit is that Project Starship has a huge amount of slowdown – particularly in the blazing sun level where I spent more time at a crawl than running at speed. It is all very well throwing hundreds of bullets onto the screen but you should only attempt it if the game can handle it. In a game that expects precision – framerate issues is a cardinal sin.
Ultimately Project Starship feels messy and disconnected. It is great that levels switch up each time you play but the execution of an art style and bullet hell that the game clearly can’t keep up with sap any enjoyment you may have gotten out of the game away. Disappointing.