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Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bare Knuckle Development
Developer: Bare Knuckle Development
Release Date: Jan. 14, 2020

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Switch Review - 'Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo'

by Cody Medellin on May 25, 2020 @ 4:00 a.m. PDT

A modern take on the retro arcade shoot-'em-up (shmup), Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo is an addictive, fast-paced space shooter with bullet hell elements, loads of unlockables, and leaderboards to climb.

If you mention that a new shooting title is out, most people would expect it to be a bullet hell space shooter. Whether it's the top-down or side-scrolling variety, your ship is expected to go out guns blazing against a seemingly endless fleet that blankets the area with bullets of their own. What people don't expect is that the title would take on the classic '80s formula, something reminiscent of when the Atari 2600 was the home console of choice. That's what you're getting with Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo, a real throwback of a shooter that's more daunting than you'd think.

The game has an inconsequential story that is accessed in a separate part of the main menu. In the near future, the Earth has become a toxic wasteland and the governments of the planet have sent nine massive motherships into space to seek out a new home for humanity. Luckily, one of those ships has found a suitable planet. Unfortunately, the planet is already inhabited, and they don't take kindly to humans invading their world. As a pilot of a fighter ship, your job is to save the mothership and the colonists from being destroyed.


Since the core mechanics aren't a typical bullet hell shooter, they'll feel different to most modern fans. If you want a point of reference, think of the shooter classic Asteroids. It's set in a single screen, and you can rotate your ship left and right. You can activate your thrusters to move forward or your brakes to stop your momentum. Enemies come in from all sides, and they range from asteroids that split into smaller pieces when destroyed to a multi-segmented structure that looks like the space station.

There are a few gameplay differences when compared to the old Atari game. For starters, you're never standing still. Even when you apply the brakes on your spacecraft, there's a meter attached to that, and once it fills up, your craft is in motion again. In a way, you're fighting the trajectory of your ship as much as you are the enemies that appear throughout the game. The idea that you're always moving is important, since you can't use the edges to warp around anymore, since touching them counts as death. Aside from fighting the travel path of your ship, you have to contend with the fact that you have a limited ammo supply. Shooting enemies always knocks loose some ammo, weapons, and power-ups to collect, but firing a constant stream of bullets in all directions results in not having enough for the boss fight. Finally, Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo seems to display some kindness by giving you a shield that needs to be destroyed before your ship takes damage, essentially giving you two hits before dying instead of one, although you only have one life in the game anyway.

Put together all of those elements, and it's a challenge to just survive the game. Piloting your ship is easy on paper, but being able to wrap your head around thrust and momentum and being able to change that on the fly might be much for players who aren't used to this sort of thing. With that mechanic alone, even taking two hits before death might not be generous enough for players to deal with; consider the limited ammo, and the game becomes a strategic shooter. This is an awesome thing, as some may think that other shooters have become too easy due to infinite continues, but it also means that many runs will be much shorter than expected.


The game comes equipped with five different modes, three of which can be played either solo or with a friend in co-op. Save the Colony has you floating around space trying to rescue astronauts and putting them into a warp gate to go home. The trick is that your ship can only hold one person at a time, so you'll try to rush between depositing people and picking up the next person before they get killed at the edge of the screen. Survival has you staying alive as long as possible to fight off the big boss, but it is Protect Mother that is the most fascinating mode in the game. There's a big mothership at the bottom of the screen, and your job is to protect the ship for as long as possible. It isn't entirely defenseless, however, as the ship has guns that can be fired manually to give you power-ups. It is by far the most difficult of the three solo/co-op modes, but it's also the most exciting, since no other shooter offers something like this.

Versus play is split into two modes. One Shot is perhaps the most intriguing, since you and your enemy are split up by a barrier with a few holes in it, and you each start with one bullet. You can gain more bullets periodically as the dispenser in the middle doles them out, but the cadence is infrequent. To the Death, on the other hand, plays more like Save the Colony except for the fact that you can now destroy your partner while avoiding everything else being thrown at you.

With the overall game design rooted in the arcades, it comes as no surprise that every mode comes with its own online leaderboard. It also helps that the "game over" section for each mode tells you exactly how well your run went and whether you've gone up in the ranks or stayed the same. Aside from the leaderboard, the game also provides several challenges that give you coins to unlock more bonuses and ships, so there's plenty of incentive to keep playing to unlock it all.


Considering what the game is trying to emulate and the relative low cost of the title, it should come as no surprise that the presentation is serviceable. The sound effects are fine, and the music retains a similar quality — good enough to serve as background music but not great enough to remember. Graphically, the bright colors of the objects and the generic starscape make the whole thing look like a Flash game. It runs well enough, but given the game's plain appearance, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was another piece of shovelware in Nintendo's eShop.

Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo is a surprisingly good game. The title is designed to be difficult and played in short bursts, but along with the challenges and unlockables, it has addictive qualities that beg for just one more round to be played. The versus modes are nice, but the co-op option in every mode makes this attractive for a system that's seemingly designed for two players. While by no means a presentation powerhouse, the gameplay in SMSBST is solid enough to be worth a look, especially at its normal low price of $4.99.

Score: 7.5/10



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