Developer: Quad Games
Publisher: Back to Basics Gaming
Price £0.11 (80% off, UK RRP £0.79)
Do you remember the toys you had? They were probably pretty great, but as you sit back and reminisce about the wonder toys, those trusted guardians of bedtime, the boredom slayers, and world’s greatest assortment of goodies and baddies, fragmented memories of the useless toys fester within the subconscious, clambering for a chance to escape. The rabid and incoherent Furby, ravenously draining a set of innocent double A’s of perfectly useful electricity, that particular needy Tamagotchi who never stopped craving your attention, and that Slinky who always refused to go down stairs. These were the bad toys, maliciously injected with ill-will from a bunch of jaded adults sickened by the idea that you wanted to have a good time. Having since moved into the incredibly mature, and ever fantastic world of Video Games myself, the wrath of those toy defilers had long been assigned to a dusty vault within my memory, and I’ve no doubt the same is true for you, dear reader.
Alas, it is with a great sadness, and the heaviest of hearts, that it would seem, for the first time, some fool has taken the perverse design philosophies behind the aforementioned cheerless contraptions and applied them to the hitherto unblemished language of C++ spawning a monster, a horror, an abomination: Stellar 2-D.
Inspired by the scene wherein Matilda’s parents forced her eyes upon the TV screen, our journey commences with an unskippable, 40 second long wait through poorly rendered logos before a brief, but welcome, view of the controls for gamepad and keyboard upon one’s first run, which seems to be the only time you’ll ever see that screen again for sound design reasons I’m sure. Upon selecting the mission mode a shoddy robotic filter is applied to a voice which exudes less excitement than the crowds at the local paint drying derby, recounting a plot in which millions are massacred because that’s good storytelling. The lines are crap, and largely inaudible, but like any evil battery operated toy it drones through the same spiel every time it is aroused from slumber.
Thereafter, the game begins in earnest. Progressively more challenging waves of foes plod along in a uniform manner, all courteously entering from right to left in a relentlessly straight line, save for some sort of plate which meanders slightly, and what are presumably meant to be bosses, all of whom kindly wait at the right of the screen for the player’s laser-light show to promptly terminate them. For a bullet hell game that doesn’t sound too challenging; some skillful piloting, a couple of power ups, and some aim and you’re onto the next wave. However, taking after the evil tamagotchi, or the flippant furby, both of whom decide when they want you to play with them and how they want to behave, the folks at Quad Games sought to revolutionise the genre by robbing the player of their agency. Amidst the pedestrian asteroids and enemy ships, and their barrages of fire, which are deceptively difficult to detect until they’ve wafted right under one's nose like a fart on a sneaking mission, a myriad of bastard balloons litter the battlefield.
Risk/ reward mechanics add a push your luck style spice to many games. The bastard balloons promise this, granting double damage, triple damage or a speed boost for the lucky. Yet this is far outweighed by the bad: ‘No Shoot,’ ‘No Horizontal Movement,’ ‘No Vertical Movement,’ ‘Slow Motion,’ all allow the game to play you, rather than you play the game. As waves are progressed through, despite the plodding nature of the enemies, the screen rapidly becomes more littered with them than unwashed plates in a student kitchen, to the point where killing enemies is a bonus, dodging is the priority. At such moments bastard balloons become unavoidable, lying in within the only bullet free path, ready to capriciously alter the controls. Slow motion might as well be renamed stationary, no shoot cripples player defences, whilst temporarily losing an axis frequently leaves one stranded in an untenable portion of the screen. With the camera being tightly zoomed in, and the player craft encompassing a sizable chunk of the screen, bastard balloons become cheap, nasty enemies rather than interesting mechanics.
There’s little more to say. There are several ships to choose from, and, poor though Stellar 2-D is adhering to the 5 D's of Dodge ball is mildly entertaining. It’s got very limited sound effects,looks less pretty than a verruca, and it hates you whilst simultaneously craving your attention. Indeed, upon completing a run the cursor will disappear rendering the main menu tricky to traverse as an exit is desperately sought.
This is a game which no matter how cheaply it is sold for, is not worth the money nor any time investment. This is 11p which could have gone to a charity.