Stargoose


Title           Stargoose
Category        Shoot-em-up
Compatibility   All (KS2 or KS3 with WHDLoad Patch)
HD Installable  Yes (With Patch)
Players         1
Submission      Joona Palaste (palaste@cc.helsinki.fi) Profiled Reviewer

Review
Stargoose claims to be "the first truly original vertical scroller in
years". This might not exactly be true, but Stargoose certainly is
something of an unusual shoot-em-up game, and above all, quite fun.

The plot in Stargoose is very simple, as it usually is in shoot-em-up
games. A refreshing twist is that your character, Scouser-Gitt, has no
pretence of saving the world or protecting his people or anything
altruistic like that. No, in Stargoose, you are rather egoistically
robbing what isn't rightfully yours. The background story tells us that
Scouser-Gitt was hired by a tribal elder to steal jewels from the planet
Nom. "I want to get me mitts on them", is all the justification the elder
ever gives. Rather entertaining.

When you load up the game Stargoose, you'll find that after the first
credits screen, the game starts up immediately. In every other game I've
played, the game has been patient enough to let you decide when to
actually start playing. Stargoose, however, takes control into its own
hands and gets straight into the action.

The game takes place over eight levels. Even though this is a space-themed
shoot-em-up, the levels are on land, not in space. Your vehicle, a small
ground fighter called (rather unsurprisingly) the Stargoose, is armed with
a forward-facing machine gun, two missile mounts, and shields. The
Stargoose is capable of going forward, left and right at variable speeds,
but it can't ever go backwards. Not one millimetre. This can sometimes be
rather frustrating, if you just narrowly miss a jewel.

What makes the levels in Stargoose rather imaginative is that they have an
inherent pseudo-3D nature. Some parts of the ground are at different
elevations than others. There are always slopes between elevations so you
can't ever get stuck, but you'll find that these slopes block machine gun
fire, both from you and the enemies. Luckily, missiles fly right over them.

Every level has the same basic idea, but with varying configurations. A
level consists of an endlessly looping stretch of land, littered with
jewels, enemies and bonus tunnels. Bonus tunnels allow you to replenish
your fuel, ammunition or shields, all of which come in finite supplies.
There is always exactly one bonus tunnel of each kind per level.

As the levels loop endlessly, if you miss a jewel or a bonus tunnel, you
can always come back to it, provided you survive that far. Once you have
got all six jewels in a level, going back to your starting point advances
you to the next level.

The enemies come in three forms: stationary mines, gun and missile
turrets, and mobile ground fighters. The stationary mines are a doddle. If
you don't collide with them, you're safe. The mobile fighters can usually
be avoided simply by going out of their way.

In contrast, the most dangerous enemies by far are the gun and missile
turrets. The gun turrets point at your general direction, firing
continuously. As if they weren't bad enough, the missile turrets fire
semi-guided missiles at you. One or two hits from a missile is usually
enough to completely destroy the Stargoose. Therefore it's usually best to
always have two missiles loaded, and fire them as soon as you have a clear
line of fire at a gun or missile turret.

The difficulty curve in Stargoose is rather pleasing. The first level is a
doddle, and you can usually get past it on your first go. The second and
third levels are considerably harder, and you'll be damned if you'll get
past the fourth level quite soon. Every subsequent game of Stargoose you
play, without quitting the whole program in between, starts from the
highest level you got in the previous game. This is a feature I'm slightly
iffy about. It makes progress in the game very easy if you keep
perservering - but on the other hand, without it, getting more than
halfway across the eight levels would be pretty damn near impossible. So I
guess it's better to have this feature than not have it.

Although the most interesting parts of Stargoose are in its gameplay, the
presentation is good too. The graphics are nice to look at, although
hardly anything spectacular. Only the background in the bonus tunnels is a
little bland. The game packaging boasts a "big mother ship intro", and
yes, there is one, but so what? The intro only lasts a few seconds, and
isn't that interesting.

However, it isn't the graphics that Stargoose will be remembered for, it's
the music. Stargoose has two music tunes, both written by Fred Gray, and
although they might have a dated feel to their sound, the actual melodies
are simply excellent.

In closing, I have to say I like Stargoose a lot. It has become one of my
current favourite shoot-em-up games, right up there with Deluxe Galaga. It
might after all be a very simple game, but it's well executed and
enjoyable to play.






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