Return To Future Past: Strike Suit Zero Review
Strike mode is really meted out, be warned. To get it, you have to fill your ‘flux’ meter by killing enemies. Once it’s full, you can flip to Strike mode, but you’ll have to be choosy about when you do this, because the flux meter depletes as you fight. You’ll get just enough time to deal out tremendous damage to enemies, enough perhaps to turn ‘hopelessly outnumbered’ into ‘doable’. But you don’t actually get to use the thing until a few missions in, and some later missions return you to standard ships. This is good insofar as it encourages you to use the Strike Suit tactically. Ultimate weapons lose their punch if you have unlimited access to them.
And it is an ultimate weapon. When you transform, you go from an agile-yet-fragile ship to a slow moving space robot whose chief tactics are strafing and firing off a seriously enormous wall of projectiles straight out of Macross. This causes a weirdly inversed difficulty spike. Combat while in ship mode required, to my mind anyway, a lot more in the way of fast thinking, while mech mode just requires you to whip left and right and blast enemies. It’s like you hooked up a game genie to your PC but it only works for a few minutes. Though I have to applaud the game for trying to shake things up, I would have preferred to be able to run up the suit against truly worthy enemies rather than as a magic bullet solution to enemy spam. Or more simply, I wish the game allowed you to spend more time with the Strike Suit. It is, after all, the name of the game.
The game’s biggest problem, however, is the reliance on some of the very worst gaming tropes. Challenging is good, and I’m willing to argue it’s not even a disaster when you can plainly feel the game cheating in the AI’s favor (I’m looking your way, Civilization series). But missions that come down to either memorizing patterns or to simple luck are excruciating. Worse are escort missions in which you’re protecting something that doesn’t even bother acting like it wants to live is even worse. Early in the game, you’ll get the hang of your suit while experiencing both problems in an escort mission that’s easy and yet absurdly difficult. Much like trying to walk a dog that insists on running out in front of every car you see while pooping on the feet of every police officer you happen to pass by is easy and absurdly difficult. And elements like these make up what felt like 50% of Strike Suit Zero.
Thankfully, in the quest to really nail an old school arcade style game, Born Ready Games made sure to include checkpoints in missions so you don’t have to start an entire mission over when you die. These checkpoints, unfortunately, are not provided generously, and the result is that even with them, you’ll find yourself losing tremendous time making it back to where you were killed before, often incurring the same amount of damage as you did when you died.
Of course, I need to make it clear this isn’t a broken game. It isn’t last year’s Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, which was an enormous, frustrating mess of a game. Strike Suit Zero just feels undercooked. The only problem is that I just didn’t care about any of it. Moments of GOLLY and OOOH were too often separated from one another by UGH NOT AGAIN and BORED NOW, and by the time you’re done you’ll feel like you just ate a 5 course meal consisting solely of Rice Crispies Treats and Sprite. Full? Yes. But you’re not in any way nourished.
I mentioned above that it feels like mobile might have been a better fit. That’s not entirely fair – it does give your PC a nice, very low impact workout, and you’ll see things you wouldn’t be able to enjoy on your phone. But I wish the game had been released with more to it. Even if the point was to recreate the classic shooters of yore, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a reason those shooters eventually fell out of fashion. No, they didn’t suck at all, but once even consoles became capable of handling complex games with hugely rendered worlds, we all got a bit spoiled. That might not be entirely fair to Strike Suit Zero, but no matter how much fun it can be to relive the charms of the past, we can’t will ourselves back to the point in which we hadn’t been exposed to what came later.
Hopefully, Strike Suit Zero is enough of a hit to warrant a sequel, because I’d love to see what else Born Ready Games could do with the concept. But for now? Prepare yourself for pleasures that are mostly nostalgic.
* Nails old school space combat
* Decent, if not overwhelming, graphics
* Fast paced, sometimes challenging
* Wildly fluctuating difficulty
* Checkpoints need improvement
* Frequency of unnecessary frustrations like escort missions
* Lack of balance between Mech and Ship play
Final Score: 70/100