CometStriker

A game by Iced Lizard Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2018.
In CometStriker, you take on the role of Lieutenant Striker (first name Comet?) who must hop from planet to planet retrieving four power cores in order to fuel a planetary defense cannon and take down a world-destroying biomechanical space station. The game is a fast-paced arcade-style actioner that tasks players with eliminating rooms full of enemies as quickly as possible, avoiding damage in return, and racking up big scores.


The mechanics are simple: The jetpack-equipped Lt. Striker is able to fly freely in eight directions and shoot to the left or right. Gunfire is continuous, so players can send out a steady stream of bullets in one direction as long as they hold the button, but movement slows slightly while firing. The weapon’s range extends about halfway across the screen, but the small single-screen environments mean that most enemies remain well within range. Players may also perform a dash maneuver to pass through enemies and projectiles without taking damage, as well as break destructible blocks, but it takes a few seconds for the dash to recharge.


The player frequently encounters slow-moving creatures that drop powerups or health restoratives when killed, and these creatures will try to inch away when the player gets close. If you don’t kill them in time, they will disappear, depriving you of their goodies. There are also destructible blocks in some areas that hide powerups or 1UPs.


Powerups include a gun upgrade that allows you to do more damage with your weapon, a boost upgrade that lets you perform three dashes in succession before recharging, and a shield that lets you absorb one hit of damage without affecting your life bar. All three powerups may be equipped simultaneously, but one is lost each time you take damage.


You have four units of health, and getting killed returns you to the start of the current room. Health restoratives are rare but restore two units each, and there are full health restoration drops before bosses. The player’s life count and number of continues are dictated by the difficulty level selected at the start of the game. Easy mode gives the player 77 lives and 77 continues, all but ensuring that he will reach the end of the game. Normal mode gives the player 30 lives and five continues, whereas Hard mode offers nine lives and five continues while increasing the enemy and obstacle count, and Very Hard further increases enemies and obstacles and gives the player only five lives and three continues.


The game isn’t terribly difficult on the Normal setting, although some of the later bosses still pose quite a challenge. However, the default difficulty setting is Hard, and you’ll need to make it through this mode if you want to see the good ending. In addition to simply making it to the end of the game, players are encouraged to rack up big points. A multiplier increases each time you make it through a room without taking damage, up to a max of 9x, and it resets when you die. Furthermore, powerup-dispensing creatures drop valuable gems if you destroy them with all powerups equipped, and the same goes for killing a health-dispensing enemy when your health meter is full.


Enemies drop gems when killed, with more powerful enemies dropping gems of higher value, and minibosses and bosses dropping huge amounts. Upon completing each level, you are ranked based on the amount of damage taken during the level and how quickly you made it through each screen – all of which have par times – and you get a point bonus based on your rank. Score and time rankings may be shared via online leaderboards.


While you are able to continue when you die, it is not possible to save your game and return; all five worlds must be completed in a single sitting. The game is a bit long for a single-sitting affair, coming in at about an hour for a first attempt, but players who revisit the game can expect to get through more quickly. Players are encouraged to return to take on higher difficulty levels, achieve better ranks and scores, and to play with the new characters that unlock as they make progress. Unlockable characters each have different playstyles, including a character with weak long-range bouncing projectiles and a character that uses only strong melee attacks. Players can also unlock a Boss Rush mode by completing the game, along with several game modifiers and a single-level practice mode.


Gameplay moves along at a fairly rapid pace, and there is a good amount of level variety and enemy types to keep things fresh, including the appearance of popup enemies, explosive mines, shielded foes, and enemy generators. However, the core mechanics are never altered during the course of the experience, so the tactics learned in the opening level are largely unchanged from one end of the game to the other. Since all player characters fire continuously when the button is held, gameplay for the duration of the game consists primarily of altering the firing direction between the left and right, and using the dash maneuver to dodge enemies and obstacles.


There are some environmental challenges, however, such as making it down long hallways while enemies shoot projectiles down their length, dodging around spinning obstacles, or avoiding huge sprays of bullets while attempting to destroy all of the enemies in a room. Most rooms remain locked until all enemies are killed, although some require that you collect keycards instead. Occasionally, the player is given the choice to select between two possible exits, and these branches last several screens before the rejoin, giving the player a bit of variety on repeated playthroughs.


Bosses engage the player in a variety of behaviors and occasionally unleash huge sprays of bullets. Players must stay on their toes and alter tactics frequently between dodging and shooting, especially given that they can only sustain a few hits before being killed, and miniboss’ and boss’ life bars are quite long. Furthermore, since powerups are lost upon death, players stand the best chance at defeating a boss on their first attempt, as failure results in being powered down when respawning.



2D CRED
CometStriker was developed by Iced Lizard Games, the developers behind Mute Crimson+. Patrick Derosby is credited with the game’s programming and design; Thomas Smith is credited with the game’s art, SFX, and assistant design; and the game’s music was composed by Terrel O’Brien.


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