Who doesn’t love a good retro videogame every once in a while? Titles like Pixel Ripped 1995 have proven there’s a lot of love for some old-school gaming, especially the brutal side of the era. One of the most popular genres back in the ‘80s were scrolling shooters, offering an onslaught of enemies who filled the screen with vibrant projectiles with the narrowest of margins for error – and no save/checkpoints. Which is exactly the kind of gameplay Shooty Skies Overdrive is trying to evoke, albeit with some modern concessions.
Originally a mobile title called Shooty Skies from 2015, this virtual reality (VR) remodel keeps the same vivid, blocky visuals whilst giving the gameplay an immersive twist. As with any of these kind of games the task is simple, shoot everything whilst trying your hardest to avoid the weird and wonderful projectiles hurled your way. One things for sure, you’ve probably never been shot at by a YouTube video whilst dodging a Piñata as well as trying to take down a horde of cats.
In one hand you hold a plane with which you shoot enemies and wave around frantically trying not to get hit. The other hand is used for powerups which randomly appear throughout the commotion. This makes Shooty Skies Overdrive a fairly physical gameplay experience and one that can be played either seated or standing – the latter uses the full roomscale environment making it easier to dodge, plus there’s no need to worry about feeling discomfort.
The main plane can be upgraded at certain points through each level to up its bullet output, but it’s the powerups where you can have the most fun. These are an assortment of random items, some of which are use once while others have a limited time. What you’re given is completely random so there’s no trying to strategize, it’s all about winging it and making the best of the situation. None of them are useless but the vacuum, shield, 2nd plane and the chainsaw were favourites when it came to the really intense moments.
Featuring five levels the action doesn’t come at you from all sides, rather a 180-degree arc similar to Space Pirate Trainer, which does make the process a smidge easier until the later levels. Don’t let the cute character designs fool you, Shooty Skies Overdrive is no easy ride even on the standard difficulty. Every level is awash with colour and there’s not a curve or circular object to be found anywhere, this is rectangle heaven! Just like the powerups, there’s a light-hearted tone running through Shooty Skies Overdrive which nicely offsets its hardcore gameplay style. As mentioned, enemies are an inventive assortment of characters, with boom boxes which fire cassettes at you or the deadly Rubik’s Cubes shooting tetrominoes, there are plenty of nods to the ‘80s era.
One aspect that thankfully hasn’t continued through the decades is the insane difficulty. Levels are split by check points so if a wayward projectile does get through you don’t have to completely restart. This becomes particularly useful on the boss stages. While five level might not be a lot, developer Mighty Games has put in various challenges to complete at the same time, which will unlock new characters. Plus there’s a Chill Mode if you really want to take it easy.
What Shooty Skies Overdrive offers is an entertaining arcade shooter, great for those times when you want to dive into a VR game that’s not too overly complicated. The powerups help to break up the repetitive nature of the gameplay whilst the aesthetics give the overall experience a charming personality which makes Shooty Skies Overdrive great for any age.