An innovative shoot-'em-up where you have up to 60 controllable ships on the screen at once.
From Asteroids to Parodius, shoot-’em-ups are nearly as old as gaming itself, spanning decades of history. To stand out in an overcrowded genre, developers must put a unique spin on the conventions of that genre, and developer Mommy’s Best Games succeeds at that. Shoot 1UP DX is unique from most shoot-’em-ups because players aren’t piloting a single ship; they’re in control of an entire fleet. The ships in your armada represent the number of lives that you have, and the battle continues until your last ship is destroyed. Ships can be replenished by picking up 1-Ups along the way, hence the game’s title. A single player can control up to 30 ships at once, while 60 ships can appear on screen in two-player mode.
What makes the gameplay addicting is how the scoring system works. Formations of your ships can be changed to accommodate your surroundings, expanding or contracting when necessary. Expanding your ships help cover more territory, thus creating more destruction and racking up higher scores. By expanding, you’ll earn multipliers on points and gain the special ability to launch a plasma ray attack. The more you expand, the bigger your multiplier will be. The more ships you accumulate, the bigger your special plasma ray grows. Killing enemies earn you points, but they will only drop medals when killed with a multiplier.
There is one major downside to expanding your ships; it becomes increasingly difficult to defend yourself, since your ships are scattered in different directions. In tighter spots, when you need to play more defensively, contracting your ships can help avoid enemy fire. Contracting pulls your ships closer together, reducing the size of your hit box. This can be extremely useful during the game’s more tense, chaotic moments. Unfortunately, the consequence of playing things safe is you won’t score the maximum number of points. This risk/reward system provides the gameplay with an additional layer of strategy and depth beyond the standard shooter mechanics. By analyzing your surroundings and using your best judgement, you’ll be able to properly determine when to expand or contract your ships.
There are eight levels to play through, and the controls are completely customizable. While most shmups restrict players to one rail going toward a single path, Shoot 1UP DX offers freedom to choose which pathways to take. As a result, it makes everything feel a tad bit more unpredictable. Trajectories are constantly changing as you navigate through the warzone. Levels frequently flip back-and-forth between vertical-horizontal perspectives. Players can replay the game to experience divergent paths and alternative routes that they may have missed during their first playthrough.
As tends to be the case with most arcade shmups, Shoot 1UP DX is a short, breezy experience that can be completed in 45 minutes or less. Some players may feel turned off by the relatively short length, but Shoot 1UP DX is intended to be replayed multiple times. Key features include online leaderboards – global and local – so players can compete against friends, chasing the highest scores possible. And if you need more motivation, the game also offers an in-game achievements system. It’s also worth noting that the game offers three difficulty settings – Chilled, Normal, and Serious – if you’re seeking greater challenges to conquer. My biggest disappointment is the notable absence of online multiplayer. Multiplayer is restricted to local only, offering no options to play with friends online. With that said, playing two-player mode with a friend, locally, is a blast. It made me realize that the world needs more multiplayer shmups, in general. Earlier, I mentioned how you and your friend can have up to 60 (!) ships on screen at once. It’s surreal to see 60 ships battling for real estate on-screen, as they collide against endless waves of enemies. Mere words could not describe how chaotic of an experience it is.
Influenced by Japanese shmups and cyberpunk anime, the art direction leans hard on the unapologetic absurdity of the shmup genre. Featuring a diverse assortment of creature designs, boss fights include aliens with long tentacles for arms and worm-like monsters that slither around the screen. In this dystopian world, we see corpses of dead dolphins scattered across the ground. Nearly-nude cyborg women frequently appear in the looping backgrounds, reminiscent of the 1995 Japanese animated film Ghost in the Shell. During a major boss fight, the game reaches a new level of absurdity when a large cyborg woman shoots gunfire at you with her mechanical breasts. With some of the more risqué content, I’m surprised that the developer was able to avoid a Teen (13+) rating from the ESRB.
Visuals are clearly retro-inspired, but it’s unfortunate that a pixel-smoothing effect was applied to the sprites. Sure, the art looks high-resolution, but the effect makes the sprites appear more like blurry, scalable vectors than crisp pixel art. It’s also disappointing that the background art wasn’t implemented with the action in a more creative, interactive way. Instead, backgrounds are merely treated as looping, static wallpaper. With that said, the visuals are clean and never distracted from the gameplay.
Designed around unique mechanics and smart ideas, Shoot 1UP DX is a cut above most standard shooters. Developer Mommy’s Best Games has successfully recaptured the magic that older Japanese shmups produced. If you’re willing to turn your brain off for an hour, Shoot 1UP DX provides the type of mindless, dumb fun that helped make the shmup genre so popular in the first place.