Game Info:

Starclaw: Battle of StarSpace Nebula
Developed By: Cenokga
Published By: Cenokga
Released: Oct 3, 2020 (Ver 2.0.4)
Available On: Windows
Genre: Shoot ‘em up
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and up: Fantasy Violence
Number of Players: Up to four players
Price: $9.99

Since this review, the developer has renamed the game to Kowi Ishto: Battle of Akonoli and made it free to play.

Note: This is a re-review of an existing review on the website. You can check out the original version here.

Back in June of 2020, Christ Centered Gamer experienced one of its more dramatic moments. The website published its lowest ever review for a game called Starclaw: Battle of StarSpace Nebula. To make a long story short, things happened and there was tension from both sides. Fortunately, the situation was able to be diffused and no hard feelings were had in the end.

Cenokga reached out to me as he updated his game numerous times for a second opinion on the game. With how games are these days, improvements can be made without having to print out whole new copies and ship them all over the world. Reviews in a way can be outdated the very second they publish for better and for worse as major updates can change the very fabric of how a game plays. Everyone deserves second chances, so I figured, why not?

Starclaw is an 8-bit top-down shoot ‘em up, similar to the games of old like Galaga. The goal is to go through 64 levels contained in 8 worlds, soaring through space and traversing the various planets while hordes of enemies attempt to gun you down. You play as Captain Starclaw, an anthropomorphic cat whose mission is to stop the invading force from reaping the resources that StarSpace Nebula and Earth collaborate have amassed. It’s a pretty standard plot to simply get the game moving. Captain Starclaw is accompanied by his commander and computer AI that debriefs him on threats or the situation at hand. He is later joined by other pilots, which I will admit is a nice way of implementing the co-op features.

Changes have been made to the general loop of Starclaw. Previously, the pacing of Starclaw was excruciatingly slow. Enemies typically spawned in all at once and once you took all of them out, you would have to wait until a certain point until the next wave of enemies respawn. This could take anywhere from 5 seconds to 25 seconds depending on how fast enemies were wiped out. Now, enemies gradually appear so moments are always filled with enemies instead of long periods of downtime. This is an improvement to the gameplay.

A Second Look At Starclaw: Battle of StarSpace Nebula

Strong Points: An improvement to the general speed/pace; more game modes were added; decent sense of humor in the dialogue
Weak Points: Constant crashes; some powerups flat out do not appear in story mode; bosses remain tedious; way too lengthy for the genre; constant reuse of enemy design; bland backgrounds; annoying sound effects/music
Moral Warnings: Space ship violence and explosions

Even the controls don’t feel as slippery compared to ver. 1.0. Although, an autofire toggle is sorely needed. There are clearly enough buttons to make use of it, and mashing the fire button for minutes on end puts a massive strain on your hands. If or when your ship happens to go off screen, pressing Q+E or the left and right triggers on your gamepad will have it reappear right in the middle. Going out of bounds is a strange feature, and seemingly something other people besides me had a problem with it as it was addressed by this new button combo. Some enemies and bosses utilize it by pushing your ship out of boundaries, but if enemies can push you off the screen, or you fail behind and you can just instantly reappear, why not just remove it altogether? It simply doesn’t feel right. Even with these gameplay changes, Starclaw remains repetitive, as there are very little changes to the basic enemies themselves.

The powerup system is slightly improved. Shield powerups now overwrite each other so you’re not stuck with a bad shield if you accidentally pick one up, but this also means you can replace your better shield with a worse one. Powerups are mostly the same, but missile count is now significantly reduced. You can only hold up to 20 missiles at a time instead of the nearly limitless amount before. Missiles have a situational use as they are too slow for the standard enemies, but are great on bosses due to their huge size and large damage. Stockpiling a bunch to quickly dispatch of them used to be a strat, but is now no longer an option.

I also noticed that there were two powerups missing from the game, and they were the best ones too—being the infinite missiles and the super shots. Either I am the unluckiest person on the planet or there is some sort of programming error because even after hours of playing version 2.0, I did not see either powerup once. I even reinstalled the game and still did not come across it. Without these powerups, bosses end up being more of a pain than they were originally.

Bosses are also changed in some ways. In version 1.0, they were massive bullet sponges that took a long time to complete. Strangely enough, they still take a long time to defeat but due to some unintended side effects. There’s the “anti-powerup” that I like to refer to as the blue star. One new effect that the blue star has is increasing the size of enemy ships if an enemy runs into it. They still retain the same healing effect for bosses. As these blue stars tend to have a common chance of dropping after an enemy ship is destroyed, bosses will typically heal up a lot of the damage you did to them, ironically still making them bullet sponges. With the lack of the two best powerups previously mentioned above missing from the game, this makes the repetitive encounters with the black hole generator bosses agonizing.

The only thing that changed about the music and sound effects is that now you can lower it through the settings. Music is very subjective so I still don’t think any of it is good, but at the very least you can opt out of it entirely without having to messi with the volume control in your operating system.

A Second Look At Starclaw: Battle of StarSpace Nebula
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 22%
Gameplay 3/20
Graphics 3/10
Sound 1/10
Stability 1/5
Controls 3/5

Morality Score - 95%
Violence 7.5/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content 10/10
Occult/Supernatural 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

I can’t tell whether stability is better or worse, as I still experience crashes in Starclaw. In 1.0, I was able to reach the first form of the final boss, but couldn't defeat him as he was immune to all forms of damage. In 2.0, I can’t even get close to that as numerous crashes still prevent me from completing the game. Sometimes it would crash on the ice world. I would start over, manage to complete the ice world, and then experience crashes in the forest world. Crashes seem to be random and unexplained, possibly being unable to find certain path findings to continue the script.

Beyond the story mode, there were new modes added. Endurance, Boss Rush, and Vs. Battle complement the experience. Endurance is a basic survival mode where you complete waves of enemies until you lose. Boss Rush is exactly what it says on the tin, but I can’t comment on it as I’m unable to finish the game. Vs. Battle is split in two, with one side being Vs. Enemy where up to four players compete to see how many enemies can be defeated or Vs. High Score where you and your friends compete for the high score. Strangely enough, the powerups that are missing from the story mode appear in the vs. modes.

Morally, it’s the same as before. You shoot ships and they blow up. Everything else is squeaky clean.

When looking at version 2.0 and comparing it to version 1.0, Cenokga has listened to feedback. The pacing of the game is increased, the shield mechanics are redone, more game modes are added for replayability and it does feel somewhat better to play. As much as it pains me to say, even with the improvements, I still cannot recommend Starclaw as all of the fixes and updates feel minor at best. Unfortunately, there are still so many fundamental flaws within the gameplay loop, the music and sounds, the copypasted enemy design, and the constant crashes that I am unable to find a target audience for Starclaw, even with it being generally safe for most to play. The extra game modes end up being fluff as they still share the same flaws as the standard experience. I would not have blamed Cenokga one bit if he simply abandoned Starclaw and moved on to his next game, but he didn’t, and I can commend him for that at least.

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Cinque Pierre

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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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