Shooters on PSVR are ten a penny, but Blasters of the Universe brings something new to the genre by chucking bullet hell games into the blender. It’s an idea that sounds terrible on paper, but actually works really well.
Set in an arcade in the 1980s, the game transports you to a Tron style VR landscape where arcade champion Grandmaster Alwy rules. Over the course of four levels he sends wave after wave of enemies after you, culminating in a boss battle. The enemies are pretty standard – robots, alien insects, floating heads, that sort of thing – but what differentiates the game from other VR shooters is that the bad guys shoot bullets in patterns. Only your head takes damage, so you can duck and dive out of the way of the bullets, with later levels involving careful positioning as you dive through huge tunnels of projectiles.
You are armed with a gun that’s mapped to one PS Move controller, and a shield and ammo clip mapped to a second Move. You can activate the shield to block some projectiles and have to keep an eye on your ammo, reloading the clip by slamming a new magazine in from your other hand – it’s this physical feel that means there’s no DualShock 4 support – and as you progress you unlock new parts for your gun and your shield which you can then combine to create tens of thousands of unique combinations.
These custom combinations manage to be surprisingly different, so you can really tweak your weapons to suit your play style. There are laser sights, auto-aim helpers, different clip sizes, shotguns, and many more options. You also get a super weapon, which can also be customised, which charges up and is very useful for clearing screens of enemies.
You remain stationary on each stage with enemies attacking from all directions, you have to keep an eye out for sneaky robots attacking from the sides or flying enemies that strafe you from above. It’s one of the few games on PSVR which is better played standing up as you really do have to duck and weave to avoid damage and are flinging you arms out in all directions to attack the enemies. The tracking is spot on and didn’t slip once whilst I was playing, but you do have to leave you dignity at the door as you flail about like a drunk Neo in The Matrix.
There are only four levels, each of which last about ten minutes, but like the best shoot ’em ups, you progress just a little further each time you play so it takes a while to finish the game. Each level also has a harder difficulty and an endless mode, plus online high score tables and challenges. It may not sound like much content but this is a shoot ’em up so you’re meant to be replaying the same levels over and over, chasing that all important high score. The boss battles at the end of each level are real stand-out moments. They are really well designed and require some tactical thinking and fancy footwork to beat.
Whilst the graphics are quite simple, they fit in the 80’s Saturday morning cartoon narrative perfectly and the sound is equally appropriate. I did like that the bad guy floats above the play area and comments on your playing, and also has a few witty one liners when you inevitably lose your fifth life.
You will see all that Blasters of the Universe has to offer within an hour, but unlike many PSVR shooters there’s tonnes of replayability and it works really well as a party game if you have friends round. You’re going to need more space to play than most PSVR games, and also more stamina, as dodging, ducking, and flinging your arms in all directions really gives you a work out. Like the best arcade games it has a simple but addictive gameplay mechanic and is one of the best PSVR shooters to date.
Version Tested: PS4