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Game Info:

Super Space Meltdown
Developed by: Polyquest Games, ZXDigital Ltd.
Published by: ZXDigital Ltd.
Released: July 31, 2015
Available on: Windows, Mac OS X, (developing) Android, iOS
Genre: Action
Number of players: 1
Price: $3.99

Thank you, Polyquest Games, for sending a copy of this game to us for review!

Learn. Die. Repeat. That is the mantra to the game Super Space Meltdown, and one that you'll see frequently as you play the game. It's fitting, because you'll learn more about the game, you'll get killed, and then you'll be encouraged to play it again.

Whether you do decide to do it again... well, that can be a learning experience as well.

Super Space Meltdown is a top-down shooter, where you play a Space Marine named Sgt. Cutter. In each level, you will find yourself in a small maze filled with alien baddies. Your objective is to kill every single one of the alien invaders, then make your way to the exit so you can do it all over again. Oh, and you only have sixty seconds to do it, too. If you get killed by the aliens, or run out of time, then the screen will explode into a white glow, followed by a blue data screen letting you know how you did. Then, you'll be taken back in time to the very beginning to, once again, learn, die and repeat the levels.

At least you get to keep whatever equipment you picked up on your previous runs. This includes land mines, auto-turrets, grenades and "credits," which serves as currency. You can't save your progress, though. However, the levels tend to be identical; they are presented in a random order except for the first one, but with enough playthroughs you'll soon recognize them and even develop tactics for getting rid of the enemies as quickly as possible. 

Super Space Meltdown
Highlights:

Strong Points: Good music; interesting concept
Weak Points: Sluggish controls; ridiculously stupid AI; repetitive gameplay
Moral Warnings: Aliens get shot

After finishing off every enemy, a terminal will pop up allowing you to read some of the backstory, in order to understand what's going on in the game. But these terminals always have the same messages, and will be unlocked in the order of the levels, rather than tied to specific arenas. For example, even though the map may be distinctly different, the terminal on the second level will always have the same message. 

The enemy AI leaves a lot to be desired, especially considering how quirky it can be. It's hard to believe that the alien invaders were capable of taking over anything, given that the only time they can see you is when you're standing right in front of them – even if you are in a large, empty room – and if you run away, they quickly forget that you were even there and wander off to do their own thing. This applies even if you've chewed through their health bar. They will refuse to pursue you into ambushes or traps that you may have carefully set. Also, even if they've passed a particular point a dozen times before, if you plant a land mine in their path, there's a good chance they'll never step on that space again. The aliens tend to be slow to fire as well – they stop and pause for several seconds before firing any shots, which would normally make their bullets easy to dodge.

At least if this were a typical shooter, that would be the case. The weight of Sgt. Cutter's plasma rifle must be immense, because he can't move and fire his weapon at the same time. Reloading also paralyzes your character until the process is completed. Not only that, you can't fire the rifle until there's an enemy in your sights. That leads to other complications – you are only allowed to shoot at enemies which are in a straight line based on the cardinal directions, and you automatically fire at the closest enemy. This applies even if you and the alien are both in a large, open area – even if your opponent is wandering around blindly without any cover, you can't shoot it until you happen to be in the same row or column. Of course, it can't shoot you, either. In any case, because of the mechanics, the controls often feel sluggish and unresponsive. You also aren't told what the controls are at the start of the game. Unless you look it up online, you'll have to do some experimenting to figure out how to move, fire and place items. Learn, die, repeat, indeed.

Super Space Meltdown
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 62%
Gameplay - 8/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 93%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

If the controls and AI weren't enough, there also is the sluggish load times. It takes several moments for the game and the individual levels to load, even if the level really isn't that complicated in the first place. There were a few instances when I thought my computer had locked up, with simply a black screen and the background music going. A game with this simple of graphics or action shouldn't take so long to move to the next area.

The graphics sport a pixellated, 8-bit style. It might be part of an anti-frustration feel, but every time you revisit a map, the lighting will get better. The enemies will still be in the same locations, but you'l be able to see them better, at least. The music is probably the nicest part of the game, and reminds me of an atmospheric variation of the kind of music you'd hear in the Bejeweled games. The only voice "acting" consists of a digitized voice reading the text from a device that looks like an old CRT monitor, and could very well be simply a computer-generated reading of the text, rather than an actual person.

From a moral perspective, the game isn't too bad. Aliens disappear in a flash when killed, and if your character is killed, the screen flashes white (oddly enough, you can still move for a few moments even after "dying" and the white glow is expanding). There didn't seem to be any offensive words spoken, but I didn't unlock all of the terminals to confirm this. 

Super Space Meltdown has an interesting concept, and I'm pretty sure there's a good story to explain the time travel mechanics, where the aliens came from, and how these disorganized bumblers managed to take over the space station. There may also be an explanation as to why each individual room has a self-destruct sequence, but this I doubt. The game falls apart in its execution, though, partly because of it's clumsy controls, and partly because of the poor AI. The developer's Web site offers free demos for Windows and Mac users, if you're still inclined to give it a try. For some odd reason, only the Windows version is available on Steam.

The premise of the game is learn, die, repeat. And I did — learn (to avoid the game), die (to play something more entertaining), repeat (passing on games that need more work before they're ready for release).

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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