It’s inevitable that in any group of gamers you will find those who don’t like a genre for whatever reason. Despite the fact that I talk with the SHMUP Master himself, Aggro Sky on a daily basis, I have never been much for shoot ’em ups. While I will spend hours on their cousins in the run n’ gun genre, I just have never been able to find a SHMUP game that gets me into the groove. Then, a few weeks ago I was suggested this game by Aggro, so I decided to try it. I’m very glad I did as it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played that I didn’t personally like, but more on that later.
The game is a 3D twin stick SHMUP in which you control your ship while blasting away enemies and their fortifications. It is a very interesting set up because it is very much a bullet hell style game. As the titular Blue Rider, you must take out the bosses of 9 different areas while trying to become a black burn mark on the land. The gameplay is fast and frantic so you’re always kept on your toes with little relief. It’s a well designed challenge in that you can pick up the game enough to play within seconds, but you’ll be putting hours into the game to beat it with its higher difficulty. One of the few gripes I had with the actual gameplay was that spinning the Blue Rider horizontally was a bit disorienting, and after a while I was feeling somewhat motion sick. I tried adjusting the sensitivity but it didn’t seem to help. I do have trouble with motion sickness, so this may just be me.
Part of the disorientation came because I just wanted to marvel at the level. Each of the distinct 9 levels is a bright, colorful maze of creative design. Even the backgrounds are well detailed 3D objects that have a very satisfying classic cartoon look to them. Fans of the original Jak & Daxter will feel right at home among the lush valley of the first level. I am a huge fan of science fiction, but there’s a lot of untapped potential in SHMUPS that don’t use familiar scif-fi tropes. The simple use of a fresh setting makes the game far more memorable than the myriad of retro styled shooters that fill indie game storefronts. By using a timeless style of animation as its inspiration, Blue Rider immediately separates itself from not only most SHMUPS, but the majority of modern games period. The soundtrack is a fantastic work of pulse pounding orchestrated pieces that perfectly fits the game. It’s really a incredibly solid SHMUP that would appeal to any fan of the genre.
This is why I can wholeheartedly recommend the game to most people. However, I am not most people. The bullet hell influences and 3D motion left me bored of the game quickly. The basic game mechanics were never enough to keep me interested, although the level design helped immensely. In truth, I just couldn’t get into the game. Every time I started the main level, I got less and less enthused about it. I had no desire to continue further and it was making me mad. Not at the game or the developer, but at myself. The game is such a well designed piece that the whole time I was thinking to myself “This is a really good game. Now why in the hell do I not like it?!” Well, in this case Blue Rider, it’s me, not you. This is just not a game for me, and that’s okay. You can find a game very good even when you can’t stand it. It’s okay.
That’s why I may be the only person who didn’t like Blue Rider who can still happily recommend it. If you love SHMUPS, especially 3D ones, then you should try this game out. If you want a game with a quick learning curve, but steep difficulty that applies roguelike elements to a setting that very rarely sees them, then you should try this game. SHMUP fans – or masters -, lovers of retro styled games and bullet hell aficionados will feel right at home dashing through the valley in the Blue Rider. If you just want a gorgeous, charming love letter to classic SHMUPS of old with a modern twist, then I wholeheartedly recommend you pick this game up. Just don’t expect to see me playing with you.
This game was generously provided for review by the developer Ravegan.