Blue Rider, a 360º degree old school shoot ’em up, has turned out to be an incredibly difficult game to master. I mean, really, really hard, and to get across just how difficult the game is, here is a list of things as hard as Blue Rider.
- Ladies from the North who go clubbing – If you think trying to survive nine levels of a 360º shoot ’em up with just one single life is hard, then think of those plucky young lasses from Newcastle who go out clubbing wearing the shortest of skirts and a crop top, even though it’s minus twenty and snowing harder than an Arctic winter.
- The Honey Badger – Blue Rider gives you just two main weapons which slowly upgrade during the game via capsules released when certain buildings are destroyed. However, shoot a capsule a little too much and it will switch to the other weapon and if you pick it up that is all it does – switch your weapons. No upgrade for you. This is the only way to swap between the spread shot and the single, more powerful stream shot. You also get a choice of two ‘bombs’, which are actually missiles that fire ahead of your craft. In comparison, the Honey Badger has teeth, lots of teeth, and skin so supple it can twist around in it’s own body and get in a good position to bite your face off. The Honey Badger could kill you and complete Blue Rider without breaking a sweat.
- The Black Knight – With limbs falling faster than the value of the Pound after Brexit, Monty Python’s Black Knight heroically battles on even when he has lost both arms and both legs. Your craft in Blue Rider is equally heroic and can pick up the very occasional (and randomly dropped) health boost, but just so you know it’s not a big wuss the health bar does not regenerate at the start of the level. If the last boss wiped you down to just a sliver of health, that is all you start the next level with. Tis but a scratch!
- My Dad – Obviously my dad is harder than your dad and could easily take him in a fight, but even he might have a problem with the boss battles in Blue Rider. Consisting of multiple stages and insta-kill weapons, these robotic behemoths follow tight attack patterns you will have to study and learn. A single mistake and it’s probably game over.
- Getting out of the shower on a cold Monday – Ah, the bliss of a lovely warm shower on a winter’s day. You want to stay there forever, so leaving it’s soapy warm embrace is very difficult but you must, just as you must speed through Blue Rider as fast as possible. Each level ends with a scoreboard that rates your speed, kills, and general awesomeness. According to some helpful text that pops up, getting good times and scores might give you an extra life, but I have yet to discover if that is true.
- Hailing a Taxi that will go south of the river after 10pm – Hey, snobby London Black Cab drivers, screw you! We have Uber and the Night Tube now, we don’t need your expensive vehicles anymore! Talking of vehicles, you get a rather cute hovercraft in Blue Rider. Unfortunately, being a hovercraft, it does drift and slide quite a lot so manoeuvring it around the levels at speed is ridiculously tough, making racing through levels (see point 5) almost impossible.
- Cross Training – Seriously, who invented that? It may look like gym equipment, but it’s clearly a torture device. Blue Rider is similarly deceptive with cute graphics, bright colours, and dinky pilots in the ships. Does that stop them wanting to kill you at every opportunity? Of course not. Little bastards. (Please note this is the official name for the enemies in the game, the wonderful ‘Engrish’ on the YouTube trailer does say to “destroy those bastards!”)
Anyway, this is a rather long way of saying that we got sent a copy of Blue Rider to review, but despite plugging away at the game for over a week, I still haven’t beaten the third level boss. He’s a giant robotic scorpion that occupies a fair chunk of the island play area you’re on. Fall off the edge of the island – dead. Get hit by it’s tail missile which homes in your location so you have to be on the move all the time – dead.
You’ve got to try and avoid it’s sixteen shot tail gun, and the tail missile that splits into another eight shots after a short period. In any brief respite, you need to attack its eye which is about 10 pixels wide and hidden behind its armoured claws, but there’s only a few moments before stage two of its attack fires off waves of homing missiles, leading to even more racing round the tight ledge you are stuck on shooting missiles, before stage three involves it spreading its claws and firing about 200 bullets in every direction possible. And homing missiles.
The game suffers from the same problem a lot of smaller indie games do, in that the team are so close to the game and have mastered its difficulty, but haven’t balanced it with enough play testing outside a small group of friends. They may know every single attack pattern, weak spot, and the perfect route through a level, but I don’t and neither will you. That’s not to say I’m not enjoying the game; the urge to beat that effing scorpion is strong and I will do it one day, but not today, and probably not this week either.
If you have a sadistic streak and want an unforgiving, basic, but enjoyable shooter, then Blue Rider might but worth a look. I will personally buy a pint for anyone who gets the “Three Stages completed without a scratch” trophy, in which you have to complete three levels and the boss battles without taking a single hit. Like many of the other trophies for the game, it’s been awarded to 0% of all players and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.