So your space combat action has been a little slow lately? If you want to give Solar Shifter a try, it is available via Steam for $8.99.
Right from the start, I’ll be frank; this game is only about a B. There are some really nice visuals and—if your machine is up to handling the graphics—some smooth game play. The audio effects are also pretty good with the exception of the energy weapon sound effects, which are a bit thin. Solar Shifter EX is a shmup with some challenging patterns to get used to, even with the line of arrows showing you exactly where the big baddie is going to lay down its fire.
This is one thing about which I’m a bit ambivalent. Part of me says it’s nice to have an outline on the level boss firing pattern, but the other part is saying it would be just as good to have to figure it out and really beat the boss on the player’s own terms.
Another bit of some good/not-so-good is the back story. The game starts with a decent bit of history, but the story elements through the game leave the player with little information and almost no real contact with your “allies.” There are a few fly-by shots where it looks like some allies are going to join you while you blast the bad guys, but they just fly away. These encounters are mostly just checkpoints.
As you fly along happily toasting enemy units, don’t forget to fly into contact with the little floating cubes. You’ll need these to buy upgrades to your ship. Also, keep an eye on the health meter at the bottom left as your ship can’t take too many hits without going boom. With all the weapon flash and sounds going on, it is a bit difficult to tell when you are taking a hit. There will be waves of enemy fighters coming at you with some formations being easy to scrap (find one blind spot in their field of fire, hang out there and toast them all as they fly by) while others will require some deft fingers on the keyboard to stay alive.
As for the game controls, you get ASDW for movement and the left mouse (or mouse pad on a Mac Book) to fire. While the controls are easy to use, there is little finesse with the keyboard movement. The slightest tap on A or D can move you from slightly off target to straight into the line of enemy fire and, oops, you’re dead, which reminds me of another somewhat annoying limitation; in the Settings menu all you get is music volume, sound volume, and a button to delete all progress. There is an option to adjust the video resolution when you start the game, but be careful with this one; the game is graphics-intensive enough to slow down if you go for more resolution than your computer is comfortable handling.
All things considered, Solar Shifter EX OK. As I said, it earns a B for its graphics and level of challenge, but certain elements (including the price) keep it from achieving an A. I would feel better if this game came in at about $5, especially when there are some mobile games out there for $2 which look as good and play as well. Solar Shifter EX is not bad and a bit of fun, but it needs some refinement.
Developer: Elder Games
Publisher: Headup Games
Minimum requirements: OS X v10.7, 2 GHz single core processor, 2 GB RAM, nVidia GeForce 8600 GT or ATI 2600 Pro graphics card, 4 GB hard drive space
Availability: Now on Steam