2D shooters were once one of the mainstays of every gamer's library, but have since fallen out of favour. There are still a niche group of hardcore players who thrive on memorising every alien and bullet pattern, able to nail the level bosses and finish these titles on a single credit. Mere mortals can only watch in awe of their L337 skillz, as many shooters really aren't very easy. Are you ready then to step in to the world of Soldner-X:2 Final Protoype?
There really is no need to be frightened of this type of game, particular with the take SideQuestStudios have on the genre. Soldner-X:2 breaks the player in very gently, with generous shields protecting the on-screen ship from plenty of enemy fire before it finally explodes. Experts at shooters may even find Soldner-X:2 a little bit on the easy side and should definitely set the difficulty level above the default normal setting. What is very welcoming is that the game can cater to all levels of skills – in fact for those who normally shy away from shooters or those that have never ventured in to this stylised and often involved genre may well find themselves losing a good chunk of time to this game. It could even bring you in to the fold, as at times it makes you feel invincible.
This isn't the only Soldner-X game to grace PSN, the first being Himmelssturmer, but Final Prototype has improved on the previous outing in a number of ways. Graphically things have been stepped-up, with everything feeling cleaner, sharper and now the backgrounds don't mask the on-screen sprites so much, something that was a bit of an issue in places. Levels have more movement to them, with the screen scrolling up and down as well as left-to-right, giving the player far more to think about. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the amount of game on offer; with Final Prototype there is a fair chunk of game locked requiring the player to try and try again, collecting special keys, five on each level, used to open up more environments to battle through.
Controlling things really isn't very complicated. There is a button to shoot, a button for a smart bomb, the shoulder buttons switch between weapon types and the stick moves the ship – a layout anyone can understand. Learning the game's concepts might be more of a challenge, often shooters can have extensive and hidden concepts that boost highscores (and chasing these should be the goal of any twitch fan). In Soldner-X 2, the ins and outs are explained through mini tutorials; these are presented to the player as progress through the game is made, and the events they are related to are encountered. Perhaps the most important of these is chaining – it's this that ramps up scores and power-ups quickly.
To chain the player must shoot groups of the same enemy type; this is similar to Himmelssturmer but far easier to understand. Rather than having to manage chains by switching weapons it’s simply a case of collecting the rings left behind by the destroyed ships – a task that adds a further risk reward mechanism in to the mix. This boosts the chain-level gauge and so multiplies the points for kills – they may also drop a power-up that can raise the multiplier further, along with health restores, extra points and various other bonuses.
Something else to get the head around is the different weapon types. Some are more effective on certain foes than others, so it's a matter of learning and remembering which guns work best on which opponents. Pick the wrong type and you may find yourself struggling to dispatch the masses of sprites on screen, which at times feels like they reach into the hundreds, especially when there is a lot of fire to duck and dodge. Although Soldner-X 2 starts things out slowly, the more you progress, the more frantic it becomes. By this point however, you should suitably have your eye in and actually, things never seem overwhelming or unfair.
Solder-X 2: Final Prototype is a very novice friendly entry into the shooter genre, yet at the same time it is able to cater to the veterans of this type of game. With plenty to unlock, lush graphics, solid gameplay and lots of cool bosses to defeat, there's much here to like. The only downside is the £9.99 price tag might be enough for the uninitiated to pass this one by, and that would be a real shame. Soldner-X 2 is a gallant effort and deserves a place in your PSN collection, particularly if only to ensure software developers continue to support this niche but often compelling genus.