I’m going to be honest: as much of a fan as I am of shoot ’em ups, I never could get into Housemarque’s Super Stardust HD. Something about it just never clicked with me. Still, I went into Resogun hoping that whatever prevented me from enjoying Stardust was just a fluke and that I’d be able to get into their PS4 title like any other shmup I’ve played. Thankfully, Resogun does more than just click with me.
Resogun (PlayStation 4)
Developed by Housemarque – Published by Sony Computer Entertainment America
At it’s heart, Resogun is a sleek upgrade to the old Defender formula. You control one of three ships, each with their own unique strengths and playstyles, around a circular stage and have to shoot down enemies while rescuing humans. If you start to get overwhelmed, you have three options:. Your standard bombs will clear the stage of all spawned enemies, an overdrive, charged by killing foes, will let you unleash a massive laser, and you can boost, with the length extending with the more enemies you boost through. Certain enemy sets, keepers, will appear and killing them frees one of the humans on the stage. You then need to take that human and bring them to a rescue point, with the ability to throw them or juggle them with shots should you not be able to get close. After three phases of enemies are cleared, you fight a boss and then move on to the next stage, with a total of five available.
It’s a simple formula, but the enemies and keeper sets get progressively more challenging, keeping things interesting. If you die, you can start over again from the last stage cleared on your difficulty, making things accessible for newcomers to genre, while the higher difficulties offer faster spawns and new mechanics like revenge bullets to keep things challenging for veterans. You’ll also notice new patterns and abilities being utilized on the higher abilities, especially on boss fights, making for plenty of tense moments and unpleasant surprises.
My favorite feature of the game is the online co-op mode, letting you and a friend tackle liberating humans together. It’s a lot of fun and requires some good teamwork and communication while having a mixture of self-preservation as well. The multiplier you get for shooting enemies isn’t shared, so you have to work harder to keep your points up and since the bonuses you get for freeing humans are only given to the player who gets them to the rescue pod, you’ll either end up trading off on who rescues humans or viciously battle it out to get the rescue, juggling humans with shots to try and steal a throw from your partner. There are some things that would make the mode a little better, like being able to take your partner’s bombs after their death, being able to spot a life to your buddy, and showing individual player scores at the end of a level.
All of this is set to an amazing aesthetic that looks slick, futuristic, and gorgeous. Watching the stages get destroyed as you progress through the waves, with voxels tumbling off of buildings and exploding everywhere is a visual treat. The color pallette is a little heavy on blues and greens, but the art style is solid, especially the enemy design that plays off of familiar ship and animal types, giving the enemies a neat feeling of familiarity while still being decidedly foreign.
Similarly, the sound design is also good, with the soundtrack being the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of blasting aliens. Sound effects are solid and destructions pack a nice weight behind them. The game also utilizes the speaker inside the DualShock 4 to alert you to when keepers appear and what the status of the humans are. It’s a weird feeling, while you’re blasting enemies to bits, to have your controller remind you that your actual mission is to rescue encaptured people and, silly as it sounds, it actually adds to the game’s immersion, like you’re a hot-shot pilot caught up in the moment that has to be reminded by base to not be a hero and stick to the mission.
So, Super Stardust HD might be something I need to come back to at some point, as my enjoyment of Resogun seriously has me wondering why it never clicked with me. The problem is, though, that I’d have to leave Resogun to do that, and I’m not quite ready for that. The online co-op and prospect of working through the higher difficulties with a friend gives the game great replayability and I know at least a few people I still want to save the humans with.