If there is one thing sorely lacking from the PS Vita library it’s bullet hell shooters, in fact they are are sorely missing on all PlayStation consoles but are ten a penny on the Xbox platform. Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype was released five years ago on PlayStation 3 and now SideQuest Studios have created a pixel perfect port of the game, complete with 60fps silky smooth shooting.
A sequel to the insanely difficult Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer, X2 (as it shall henceforth be known in this review) has a unique feature called the Play Rank System. This constantly adjusts the game’s difficulty level while you are playing so that inexperienced players – or those who have just lost a life – are likely to encounter less enemies and fewer bullets. Similarly, do well in a level and the game will throw everything at you as a challenge.
Certain enemies will drop rings which can be picked up to increase your chain meter, there is also a chain clock which resets when you pick up a ring, but cancels the chain if you take to long. Completing a chain releases a power up for you ship, most of which are the usual suspects of drones, speed ups and smart bombs. If you take too much damage, then your activate Bezerker mode which slightly increases your firepower and reduces the damage you take, thus giving you more of a chance of surviving to the next health power up.
Each of the the first five levels conceal five keys, collect at least four of these on each of three levels and you unlock the final two levels of the game. This may seem a little unfair, locking a portion of the game away, but it is also the game’s master stroke. Blasting through the first five levels on the easiest difficulty will take you about and hour, but to prolong the experience the developers have cooked up a host of challenges which gradually unlock new weapons, new ships and levels.
Whilst it may sound dull replaying the same level over and over, the challenge tasks completely alter the game. For example, one challenge is to survive level two without killing a single enemy. This turns the game into a side scrolling version of PS Vita puzzler Minutes as you weave between the bullets and enemies, carefully selecting a path through the level.
X2 runs at a flawless 60fps, something rarely seen on the PS Vita, with polygonal backgrounds sweeping past the 2D sprites used for your ship and the enemies. Soundwise it’s the usual techno-tinged dance music found in shoot ’em ups, but with the addition of some slightly cheesy voice acting. In between each mission you get a short cinematic of your ship flying through space which barely lasts five seconds but cleverly hides any loading in the background.
Online leaderboards are included and the developers have thoughtfully included an option to turn off automatic uploads, stopping the Vita from pestering you to connect to WiFi. For obvious reasons, the local multiplayer has been removed but the title is cross buy – purchase the Vita version and get the PS3 version free for post-pub co-op gaming.
Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype expands it’s rather simple “shoot everything that moves” base game with a host of game changing challenges which extend the life of the title. Cross buy is always a bonus and that offer also extends to the DLC which includes an extra three levels and more challenges for a few pounds. This is a great little shooter that has aged well considering it’s over five years old, and actually feels more at home on Vita than it did on PlayStation 3.
Version tested: PS Vita