Really Big Sky – A Shooter Made with Love and Lasers
A day or two after this site was launched, I noticed a game on sale at Impulse called Really Big Sky. I’d never heard of it before, but that hasn’t stopped me from getting a game sight unseen on sale before. Unlike a not-so-good game I found randomly on a sale a little while back, Really Big Sky — which is a sequel to ANOTHER game I’d never heard of called Big Sky from the same developer, Boss Baddie — turned out to be something of a genuine surprise! Read on to find out what I thought after some hours of play time. :)
Really Big Sky (RBS from now on) is something of a bullet hell space shooter (or “shmup“) with quite a lot to offer, including several game modes, frantic game play, and a few twists and turns to try and keep things interesting. How successful was it at making things fresh and exciting?
First off, there’s the gameplay, which is just, in one word, thrilling. There are eight different game modes that are more than just the same gameplay with a different coat of paint. They’re actually pretty different! This leads to the gameplay rarely getting stale and nearly always staying exciting (except for those frustrating times when you want to throw your computer through the wall, but more on that later). Lasers can also be altered by power-ups (depending on the game mode) and perks (also depending on the game mode).
Flip a switch, however, and a little drill that usually sits on the back of your ship rotates to the front, allowing you to drill through planets, asteroids and so on. Holding down this button makes your ship go all Whirling Dervishy, and you become, in essence, a giant saw blade for a few moments. Use this sparingly, however, you only have three per level. Controlling your ship is smooth and simple, at least with a keyboard. The game also supports Xbox 360 gamepad.
The core of RBS’ gameplay is its shooting and drilling mechanics. Yes, I said drilling. First, your little ship has a laser that always shoots, so you don’t have to hold down the fire button. HOWEVER, if you hold down the fire button, this “warms up” the lasers so that, upon the button’s release, you get a temporary power surge to the lasers, which can help against bosses and the like.
Let’s talk about the drill for a second, however. The drill in RBS allows you to drill through planets, which come in a variety of sizes. Planets also usually have glowing orbs that act as score multipliers, so you have to try and hit them all for the best score. Using the drill took some getting used to, leading to slamming into a planet or asteroid — which you can also drill through — a few times. There are also some bosses that need to be drilled through, like one with several turrets that tries to ram you once the turrets have been shot down. The drilling adds what I think is a unique aspect to the game that — although it could be cumbersome, it works well.
Besides enemies being thrown at you, there are powerups and multipliers you have to try to snag as well, and these can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Multipliers can be in the middle of planets, in gas giants and from destroyed enemies or bosses, while powerups can come from nearly anywhere. This makes the game even more challenging, as you want to collect powerups and multipliers whenever you can.
If you’re playing in the classic mode (the most interesting of the eight, I think), you can also collect star matter from destroyed enemies and multipliers that serve as currency to use between game sessions. This gives the player one more incentive to go back and try again, in order to get more “money”. Here you can purchase better shields, armor, or weapons, to strive to make the game easier.
However, the game is never a walk in the park thanks to its procedural generation system. This makes every game you play, despite the mode, not only unique, but apparently based on the way you play the game. In practice, I found that it worked well, as the game adapted to my play style and threw challenges at me that I had found difficulty with in previous sessions. Each stage is completely randomized, making for a new experience each time, and also adds quite a bit of longevity to the game.
Speaking of longevity, RBS has eight game modes each with its own unique style and objective. Some of these include:
- Classic, as mentioned above, is the base game, with multiple enemies and ship upgrades. This is also the mode I played the most.
- Arcade mode is like Classic mode, but you get powerups, and it’s a bit more difficult.
- Marathon mode scores you based on how far you’ve traveled moreso than how many enemies you’ve killed.
- Retro mode makes the game appear as if it was from the late 1970s or early 80s, complete with retro music and graphics.
These are just some of the modes found in RBS, and they definitely kept me coming back for more.
Presentation-wise, this game is hands-down amazing. The graphics are vibrant, colorful, exciting and smooth, even on my aged PC. The game has a wide variety of effects, from blurring effects to bullet-time like effects that all work when implemented this well. The sound effects and music are also top notch, and the game includes a snarky British voiceover that chimes in every so often and is yet still cheesy, but funny at the same time.
Overall, Really Big Sky is a joy to play if you’re into bullet hell shooters. With a variety of modes, uncomplicated playability, fantastic graphics and even more I didn’t talk about — like score tracking and such, but this review is big enough already — this is one shooter that will keep you occupied for hours.
Please enjoy the screenshots I took while playing Really Big Sky.