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Remote Life

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Shoot-'Em-Up
Developer: Next Game Level
Release Date: Oct. 4, 2019


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PC Review - 'Remote Life'

by Cody Medellin on March 10, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Remote Life is a 2D side-scrolling space shooter with fast-paced action and scary graphics as players hyper-jump into a brutal, frenetic, techno-alien world.

The shoot-'em-up is a genre as old as video games themselves, and it has ruled arcades and home platforms for a long stretch. While many would argue that the genre still lives on today in the form of bullet hell titles, the classic version is making a resurgence, much to the delight of classic fans. Remote Life, a project developed by Mario Malagrino, is an enjoyable entry in the classic shooter genre.

Like many shooters, there's a narrative, but it isn't essential to the experience. Far in the future, space travel and colonization are normal. However, a giant alien mothership appeared and devoured one of the outposts. The mothership is now headed toward Earth, and a lone spaceship has warped in to stop the alien threat, but it was instantly dismantled. You play the role of John Leone, another pilot sent to stop the alien threat, and you'll break down the mothership's outer defenses to make your way inside.

On the surface, Remote Life is a classic shooter experience. For most of the levels, you'll scroll from left to right automatically but at a speed slow enough that you have ample time to react to your surroundings. You have unlimited ammo for your default weapons, and you have another weapon meant to clear wide swaths of enemies. You only have a limited amount of lives at your disposal, and you die with just one hit from enemy fire or colliding against enemies and the environment.

There are a few additions that make the game distinct and greatly improve the experience. For starters, you have three gun forms that you can switch to at any time that range from a standard laser cannon to dumb missiles. You can pick up other weapons to replace one of those three slots, but they come with a limited amount of ammo that can't be replenished unless you pick up the same weapon again. The game does away with a continue system, but it also saves your progress after every completed level, so you can continue from the last level at your leisure. You also have a meter at the top of the screen that tells you how much progress you've made, so you're never left wondering when a level will end. The most significant changes come from the game's implementation of a twin-stick system, giving you full 360-degree shooting that you normally wouldn't see in a space shooter.

For the most part, Remote Life is rather enjoyable thanks to this marriage of mechanics. The expanded shooting range helps since the game seems to have been heavily influenced by R-Type, where it's normal to navigate tight corridors and around unstoppable foes. Aside from the tightly packed stages, there are a few that abandon forced scrolling and let you navigate freely in all directions, giving the title an adventure feel while mimicking some recent shooters, like Earth Atlantis. Combined with mid- and end-level boss fights that feel fresh, there's plenty of fun to be had.

Despite this, there are some things that Remote Life doesn't pull off correctly. Some of that blame falls on the weapons that you pick up. Some of the great guns have such low ammo stashes that you never feel like you can use them to their full potential before they're drained and you return to your default weapon. Other guns are terrible due to poor range or lack of damage, but their ammo doesn't drain fast enough, so you hang on to them far longer than you'd want. Your inability to designate which spot gets which weapon hurts the potential of playing strategically by saving the good weapons for boss fights. The same goes for the extra turrets you encounter, as they function on such a short timer that they're underutilized.

There are also some odd technical and design issues. The text is quite small on a monitor and even more so on a TV, so the act of picking up a power-up feels like guesswork if you're a couch gamer. The options menu feels sparse, without any granularity over customization, and the selection cursor feels much larger than necessary. The game lacks a pause feature, so you either have to hope that you don't need to take care of anything else, or you're forced to restart the level. Also, the game doesn't support the Steam Overlay, so if you want to take pictures of the game or track achievements, you're out of luck.

The overall presentation is solid yet flawed. Graphically, the game is clean, but the optional dual filters used for 8- and 16-bit only seem to reduce the number of colors on-screen rather than give the game a completely different look. The title's biomechanical and insectoid look is well animated and continues the R-Type influence. The only distraction is with big explosions that cause shockwaves, since that warps the whole screen and briefly obscures the view of your ship — often at critical times. Due to the lack of option granularity, you can't shut that off without killing almost all of the other effects.

On the audio side, the techno on the soundtrack is perfect for space shooting, but there's no looping, so expect plenty of blank spots as tracks change. The translation is clunky, since the developer presumably isn't a native English speaker, and while all of the voicework is done via a text-to-speech program, it unintentionally uses the wrong emotions at the wrong time. It's both bad and hilarious to hear your pilot sound happy that the dead inhabitants of the space colony are being shuttled around in tubes.

Remote Life is a mix of old and modern sensibilities in a package that works rather well. The twin-stick shooting blends in nicely with tight controls and enemies that are fun to fight if you're not stuck with a terrible weapon. The level design mixes in traditional scrolling with a few adventure levels, all of which have some great design for the genre. If you can live with the translation errors and ignore some of the technical issues, you'll find Remote Life to be an engaging shooter for those who don't crave millions of bullets on the screen.

Score: 7.5/10

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