mikelemmer's Really Big Sky (Steam) (PC) review

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Do a Barrel Rolllll- Nah, Just Kidding

Download Size: 220 MB

Time Played: 2 hrs.

Last Unlocked Song: Hiding in the Swamp of Freaks with a Toad Named Kieran

Psychadelic Insanity: Slowly Increasing

What I'd Pay: $5

Steam Price (2/25/12): $10

Shooters need more British narrators. I'm just gonna put that out up front. The deadpan snark of a Brit elaborating on the absurdity on-screen made this game twice as enjoyable. Why is it even off by default?

Color Inversion: Bane of Space Pilots Everywhere
Color Inversion: Bane of Space Pilots Everywhere

*ahem* Apologies for such an absurd start to the review, but it fits such an absurd shooter. Really Big Sky has little rhyme or reason aside from constantly tossing things at you to smear you into a pulp. It's a procedurally generated shooter that scales with your constant upgrades until barely-understandable insanity erupts on the screen. It's the type of game where you drill through a planet to pick up bombs, then team up with a giant mothership to blow up dinosaur skulls on the event horizon of a black hole. And then it inverts the colors on you.

At the start, it doesn't seem like much. It's a dual-joystick shooter (keys to move, mouse to aim) with a Drill toggle that lets you pass through solid rock, but doesn't let you shoot. You can build up laser power by not shooting, and you can do a near-invincible spin attack 3 times a run by holding down the Drill button, but that's it for the controls. You start out slow & weak and in this horrible windowed mode where your cursor can move off the window and get you killed. The latter was fixed by going to the Options screen & turning on Fullscreen - Maximise (I also turned on the Narrator at this time, a decision I don't regret). The former was fixed by going to the Shop post-game and upgrading my ship. Your ship upgrades are constant, and as you transform from a slow weak minion to an unstoppable juggernaut of death, the game matches you by tossing more & more stuff your way. Thus the game slowly progresses from Slightly Boring to Obviously Made by Crazed Drug-Addled Developers.

Laser Motion Sickness: Ship Go BLARGH, Things Die
Laser Motion Sickness: Ship Go BLARGH, Things Die

For example, on one run I burst out of a planet and immediately entered hyperspace, where I dodged the jet blasts of a giant engine while shooting down alien ships as my shots slowed down from sheer speed. I then drilled into a hollow planet with a giant laser protecting its core; I blew it up for a Multi multiplier before exiting it right into an asteroid field surrounding a gas giant. There I flew through several gates to gather star points for more upgrades after I died. I gathered so many my ship belched a giant laser into a group of shielders, incinerating them instantly. ("No, universe, you stick your hands up!")

It's not the easiest stuff to follow, and often the screen filled with so many explosions & lasers & special effects I lost track of myself and died, but it shows a gleeful, bright insanity. The horrendously catchy soundtrack also helps. This isn't a game I was interested in playing again, but it was a game I was interested in seeing again, just to watch what happens next.

Just to mix things up even more, the game has 12 different modes, all of which I had unlocked after 2 hours of play. They range from Practice mode to Pacifism mode to Retro mode, which reduces the controls to Move & Shoot and applies a filter so hard to the game it froze a couple times trying to process it. The extra modes squeeze some extra gameplay out of the game, but I still preferred to play Classic mode to garner the most star points to upgrade my ship.

What's going on here? Your guess is as good as mine, really.
What's going on here? Your guess is as good as mine, really.

I felt I exhausted everything the game could show me fairly quickly (~2 hours), but it was a fun 2 hours. If I wanted to improve my game, I could certainly dump more hours into it to fully upgrade my ship and raise my High Score on the leaderboards. (There's also supposed to be a multiplayer mode, but it wasn't apparent at first glance and I can't play it with anyone anyway.) Without some goal to push towards, or game mechanics that feel more like mastering a system than just relying on twitch reflexes to dodge and/or blast through whatever comes next, it just doesn't have what it takes to keep me coming back. The music, graphics, and narration will ensure I have fond memories of my short time with the game, though.

This would be a good game for shooter fans that want as much psychadelic excitement for as little money as possible; everyone else should wait until it goes on sale before checking it out.

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