Pulstar
Gameplay 7
Graphics 7
Sound 7

Pulstar is a very straightforward arcade shooter so depending on your taste you will either find it a refreshing blast from the past or become frustrated after only a few minutes. It definitely packs quite a challenge and the difficulty ramps up very quickly, so quick reflexes and a bit of luck is required to make the most of it. If you enjoyed games like Geometry Wars and Beat Hazard you will have fun with Pulstar.

Gameplay: Straightforward and challenging arcade shooter.

Graphics: Nice, but it can be hard to distinguish the enemies from the background at times.

Sound: The sound effects lack punch, but the music is very catchy

Summary 7.0 Good
Gameplay 0
Graphics 0
Sound 0
Summary rating from user's marks. You can set own marks for this article - just click on stars above and press "Accept".
Accept
Summary 0.0 Terrible

Pulstar

Developer: Concave Studio, Colorful Media, Emagica | Publisher: Indietopia Games | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Action / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

If you feel like arcade style shooters have become too bloated and convoluted of late then Pulstar might just be the back to the basics style game that you need. There is a backstory about evil aliens invading your peaceful galaxy, but as soon as the first shots are fired you will forget all about who the enemies are and why they are attacking and focus on surviving instead.

The gameplay of Pulstar (not to be confused with the 1995 arcade game from Aicom and SNK by the way) is nothing new and features a formula first seen in Asteroids or more recently in Geometry Wars. Your ship, or star in this case, is confined to a rather small area and enemies pour in from the boundaries of the stage. You have to dodge and retaliate while staying alive for long enough to hopefully beat your previous high score or make your mark on the leaderboards. You can’t “win” the attack and the enemy onslaught is relentless, so sooner or later you will be overwhelmed and lose.

Recent entries in the genre has tried to add more depth by including features such as levels and perks that allow you to become stronger and survive for longer each time you play, but the developers of Pulstar have opted not to take this route. Instead of grinding away for levels you will have to improve your own skill and become better if you want to last longer in this game. Each time you lose all your lives the game is over and no progress or perks are tallied or awarded to help you in your next run. Some players will find this frustrating considering how tough the game already is, while others will relish in the challenge because it rewards actual skill and not just persistence.

Pulstar is very reasonably priced, but at first glance it still feels al little light on content. There is only a single backdrop for the game and you face a grand total of three different enemy types. More enemy types would probably have made the game feel even more claustrophobic than it already is though. The three foes include a spinning red disc that fires clusters of red projectiles at you, a green plasma spitting enemy and something that looks like a deep space octopus. The enemies are easy enough to deal with on their own, but as the game progresses, their numbers increase dramatically, which will test your shooting and dodging skills to the max. The visuals and audio also become more intense the longer you survive, so the background will begin to become more distracting. You control a bright, glowing star, so it is easy to keep track of where you are amidst all the chaos, but the enemies have a nasty tendency to blend in with the background. This is obviously quite a nuisance, but can be avoided by killing them before they reach the center of the screen where the glow is the brightest.

Initially your firepower is barely adequate for fending off the enemies, but power-ups appear that make your life a bit easier. Weapon upgrades increase the spread and speed of your shots while extra lives also appear if you are lucky. You can also activate a “Pulsetime” power-up which slows down the action and allows you to take down enemies at a much more leisurely pace for a few seconds. You will need all the help you can get though, as the challenge ramps up considerably when you pass the four minute mark. When you inevitably succumb to the onslaught your score, kill streak and time is displayed along with your previous bests for some motivation to do better next time. The online leaderboards offer an extra bit of incentive to improve your score and the game also features some very tricky achievements to aim for.

I found the controls to be very responsive, but as this is a twin stick shooter it obviously plays best with a good dual analogue controller. Playing with a keyboard and mouse is fine, but I found myself being able to achieve much better scores when playing with a controller. The game also features a local co-op mode where you can take on the enemies with the help of a friend, which is great if you find the single player mode too hard. The visuals are fairly simple, but very polished and fit the mood of the game. The audio is also very decent, but while the music is good I found the sound effects to be a bit lacking.

Pulstar might not have a lot of depth, but it packs a mean challenge and plenty of replay value. It is short enough to keep you hooked in short bursts and addictive enough that you will want to have a quick go every now and then to try and beat your previous highscore. If you are not a fan of games where you can see everything it has to offer in the first ten minutes you can probably skip Pulstar, but given the low price there isn’t much risk in checking it out for yourself.

*Review originally published June 2014.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows Vista or higher
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.7ghz, or AMD equivalent
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4600 or higher
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Controller recommended
  • OS: Windows vista or higher
  • Processor: Intel I3 or ADM equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 450 or Radeon 4770 or higher
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Controller recommended
  • OS: 10.6 or later
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.7ghz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4600 or higher
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: 10.6 or later
  • Processor: Intel i3 or higher
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 450 or Radeon 4770 or higher
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.7ghz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4600 or higher
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  • Processor: Intel i3 or higher
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 450 or Radeon 4770 or higher
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space

Related posts

F.E.A.R. 3

F.E.A.R. 3

The series is moving away even further from its creepy horror roots and starting to feel a bit like a typical "Call of Duty" style shooter. There's still a few nice ideas, but the scares are thin on the ground and the story isn't exactly gripping. The co-op seems to have been the main focus of the game and works well. Gameplay: The shooting mechanics are solid but it loses that spooky "F.E.A.R" feeling along the way. Graphics: Looks good and the environments are a bit more varied than before. Sound: Nothing but silence from the lead character, but overall the voices and music is decent.

Sakura Angels

Sakura Angels

Sakura Angels is a definite improvement over Sakura Spirit, but still falls short of greatness. Players who like plenty of fan service and don’t mind a story that is a bit clichéd will enjoy the game though and the artwork is beautiful. It is also a more risqué game compared to Sakura Spirit, but once again the title is more ecchi than hentai, so will be tame to people used to nukige titles. Gameplay: The story is a bit more involved this time round and there are much more choices. Graphics: Beautiful art work with plenty of detail. Sound: Once again, no voice acting, but the music isn’t too bad.

EPOCH

EPOCH

Mobile titles usually don't fare very well on PC due to their simplicity or lack of options, but Uppercut Games have done a good job sprucing up EPOCH for its Steam release. The improved visuals and responsive controls make it more than just a quick port and the arcade style gameplay is perfect for killing some time between more in-depth titles. While the campaign can be completed rather quickly, there is plenty of replay value and the endless Arena mode also provides some more longevity. Gameplay: Third person shooter stripped down to its most basic elements. Graphics: The Unreal 3 engine is used to provide some nice visuals. Sound: Decent, but not particularly memorable.

ACE COMBAT™ 7: SKIES UNKNOWN

ACE COMBAT™ 7: SKIES UNKNOWN

Ace Combat 7 offers a superb selection of aircraft and a campaign spanning twenty missions to use them in. The controls feel great and there are enough settings to ensure that even total newcomers can have fun. However, the game can get frustrating at times and the lack of support from the rest of your squad is a bit annoying. In addition, the multi-player component of the game feels a bit lacking. Despite these issues, the game is very solid and offers an action-packed experience that is hard to beat. Gameplay: A little frustrating at times, but overall the experience is action-packed and a lot of fun. Graphics: All of the planes in this game look great and the amount of detail is impressive as well. Sound: Decent voice acting and a superb soundtrack complements the action nicely.

Euclidean

Euclidean

Euclidean is a game of geometric horror that tries very hard to make use of Lovecraftian elements to inspire dread, but only manages frustration instead. Not only is it hard to see what is going on around you, but the controls are also sluggish to the point of feeling useless. Instant death is very common, forcing players to restart the level, but mercifully the levels are short and there are only nine of them. Unless you are a huge fan of Lovecraft, can handle frustration and can find this game on sale, it is not really recommended. Gameplay: Fall down very slowly while battling sluggish controls in order to avoid enemies. Graphics: Enemies are far from scary and the whole thing is just too dark and foggy for its own good. Sound: The ambient soundtrack is good, but the taunting voice can become repetitive.

Unruly Heroes

Unruly Heroes

Unruly Heroes is a gorgeous looking 2D action platformer that is loosely based on the Chinese epic, Journey to the West. It gives you control over a motley crew of four characters as they travel the land in search of the sacred scroll that will restore balance to their world. Unfortunately, the controls are not always responsive, which means this is a game that often looks better than it plays. However, it still features plenty of clever touches and variety, which elevates it above a lot of other games in the genre. It's not the easiest game out there, but it’s definitely worth sticking with it to the end. Gameplay: Unresponsive controls mar the experience slightly, but it is still a great game. Graphics: Everything about the art and visuals is top notch. Sound: Not the best voice acting, but the music is very good.

Leave a comment

17 + 1 =