The original Project Starship was an interesting game but one that didn’t really gel with me at all. The seeds of a vibrant series were there though and thankfully they’ve been much better realised in the newly released sequel Project Starship X. This shoot em up is a game that grows with you as you get better at it.
Each run of the game contains five levels, with two bosses in each. You’ll pick from two characters to start with (up to a roster of 5 over time) and they’ll each have different movement, dodge and health stats. You’ll then be thrown into your five level gauntlet. Levels have specific patterns with procedural elements in them which means you’ll know the layout roughly but some elements will always be a bit of a lottery. The controls are simple too. Move. Shoot. Warp. When you shoot you move much slower and as you aren’t the toughest cookie in space, you won’t be able to kill and shoot everything. That’s where warping comes in. You’ll warp forward under an invisibility cloak for a second it can be used as a dash to push forward and hit enemies. Levels are designed with red skulls flying around that you need to warp through to avoid and some enemies can only be hurt using dash too. This gives Project Starship X a rhythmic feel as you’ll be warping to avoid all the chaos just as much as shooting it.
The game looks loud and garish like a cartoon on acid. It is an acquired taste but I grew fond of it over time. You never lose sight of yourself that’s for sure! As you learn the shoot and warp mechanics you’ll get better at the game and beat the bullet hell bosses and save the day… or so you’d think!
The best thing about Project Starship X is how it handles replayability. Whenever you complete a five level run, you unlock new levels and new, harder patterns for existing ones. You’ll also unlock ‘mad events’ which are random triggers of huge enemies or zany effects or power ups – of which there are more made available each time you complete the game. As you get better, the game gets progressively harder and you learn the new challenge to level up. Over time what was the easy opening level is now a warp fest of barriers to avoid. The bosses are now more aggressive and often brand new. There are 14 stages to find but a variety of patterns for each and with the random mad events and mini patterns always changing, you are kept on your toes at all times.
One other element of the game I enjoyed was that your ship also transforms into a Opa Opa styled crab that runs across the floor. Instead of warping you jump over lasers and the movement is slightly different. Enemies change tact towards you too and it just spices the gameplay up enough to stop you getting lazy.
The only mild criticism I have, beyond the marmite graphics, is that the achievements are designed in a way that if you are after the platinum trophy, you’ll only ever see the opening two runs at best. The game gets better and better as you play it further and so those gamers will miss out on the best bits. I’d have also liked to have been able to replay and enjoy older patterns and levels for score attack modes and leaderboards individually outside of just the five level runs.
These are small quirks though. Project Starship X is a huge step up from the original in every single way. A sequel that truly learns from experience and a game whose challenge grows with you. It is my first surprise hit for 2021. I’m a very pleased gamer.
Project Starship X
Learning lessons from its predecessor makes Project Starship X a far more superior and enjoyable game.
The game evolves and gets infinitely better the more you play and complete it.
The challenge grows as you do.
Level design takes full advantage of warping, jumping and shooting all over the shot.
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