Review: Blasters of the Universe

Brutal, frustrating and addictive as hell.

If there’s one thing virtual reality (VR) headsets aren’t short of it is the odd wave shooter or two. Titles such as Space Pirate Trainer were there from the beginning, offering intense gunplay action without having to walk anywhere. Since then its seems as if every VR developer has tried its hand at the genre – some with more success than others – and now it’s the turn of The Secret Location with its 80’s inspired shooter Blasters of the Universe. Where others have failed this videogame might just succeed.

Originally launching as an early access title way back in July 2016, The Secret Location has used this time to craft a videogame that aims to offer more than the rest, intermingled with humour, a retro visual theme, and plenty of guns.

Blasters of the Universe Bullets

For a wave shooter Blasters of the Universe does actually have a storyline to back up the bullet hell gameplay, involving a nerdy arcade gamer who’s that good on a particular title that no one can beat him. When VR enters the arcade he laps it up, actually entering the digital realm – Tron anyone? – creating his own universe. Its here that you must do battle against hordes of different enemies as you work your way to finally face Grand Master Alwyn.

So the basics. For those that’ve played wave shooters before – there’s sure to be a few – most of the gameplay will be very familiar. There’s no dual wielding as such in the campaign – the challenge mode is somewhat different – with one hand holding the gun whilst the other holds a shield/reload tool. While most videogames of this ilk will provide you with a selection of weapons, sometimes swappable mid-level, Blasters of the Universe takes a different route with a highly customisable gun in the armoury.

This is one of the title’s biggest and best features, with a massive selection of options to tailor your gun exactly how you want it – once you’ve unlocked the parts that is. The Frame is the base for every weapon, each one has different attributes and a unique ability to unleash when things get really tough. Then there’s ammo attachments, barrels, ammo and more to change to your hearts content until finding that perfect combo that just works.

Blasters of the Universe

And it needs to, because once a level starts that’s it, you can only head back to the armoury once you’re dead. And you will die a lot. There’s no hand holding in Blasters of the Universe and don’t expect the first level to be an easy walk through, this isn’t a title for the casual gamer. And that’s probably where the hook in Blasters of the Universe lies, its unforgiving difficulty. There are five hearts which equate to five hits, more than that and it’s over. Using the shield will help but it’s not indestructible. Should it receive too many hits then it’ll disappear to recharge, usually at the worst moment when all you can see are incoming neon bullets.

One thing Blasters of the Universe makes you do is move – it’s essential. If too many enemies appear on screen then it’ll become a deluge of incoming fire, with each hostile having a particular style of projectile. Some might be a single shot, while others are swirling vortexes of death that’ll deplete the shield rather rapidly. Just stand there trying to shoot everything and it’ll be game over quite quickly. Dodge, duck, crouch, and learn the patterns, then surviving becomes that little bit easier but it’s certainly not easy.

For those that’ve become rightly bored with wave shooters Blasters of the Universe offers that spark of light, reminding us why this genre became popular in the first place. The entire theme, visual aesthetics and gameplay make Blasters of the Universe a joy to play, just be prepared to swear and curse – possibly throw a controller – as that heart disappears because you didn’t see that one laser bolt soon enough.

(Reviewed on HTC Vive)

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