Review: Shoot 1UP (Xbox Live)


A genuine, honest-to-goodness arcade game on Xbox Live? Bring it on! Shoot 1UP is going to appeal to the old-school gamer, but there's enough class and clever coding here that should make this an enjoyable shooter for anyone looking for some classic gameplay.

Author: Microsoft Studios

Version Reviewed:

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Let's talk about the gimmick of having all your lives on the screen at once. It's a great marketing phrase, but it's not quite right. Essentially you have only one life, and when you are dead, it's game over, with no replay or ''add credits to continue' in the game. You can pick up more ships to add to your fleet by grabbing the '1UP' power-ups that float through the screen to have a new ship added to your fleet instantly, and as long as you always have at least one alive, you can carry on playing. When that last ship dies, that's the end of the game.

Yes it's a semantic issue that buzzes around how you talk about the classic up-the-screen vertical shooter, but for me this is a one life game. And I'm loving it.

 Shoot 1UPShoot 1UP  

One of the key elements that makes this work is that it increases the variety for the player. In the days of standing at the arcade cabinet, with lots of physical buttons available to press, you could trust the variety of weapons and shields under your fingers to keep it interesting. That's not something you can rely on when developing for a touchscreen device, so the developers have taken one of the basic UI moves for a multi-touch screen, pinch, and made that the secondary control.

Like many shoot-em-ups on portable devices, your craft will be constantly firing, so there's no need to have a button to keep mashing while flying. Couple this with the smooth steering of the craft as it mimics a single touch on the screen and you have a very intuitive way of flying... you slide your finger to the left, the craft moves to the left. By mimicking rather than moving to where your finger is, you never obscure what is going on around your ship.

You also have the option to use tilt controls to steer the craft, and while this is really nice on the early levels, it's not accurate or fast enough to survive the later levels. It's also worth pointing out that even if the tilt control is active you can still use your finger to fly the craft if there's a particularly tricky manoeuvre you need to complete.

To to make a title stand out, you need something special over and above the drags and tilts to fly, and in Shoot 1UP's case, it's the pinch/zoom move. Again, it keeps things simple. If you do the two finger gesture for 'zoom in', your fleet of ships will space themselves out on the screen, creating a far wider field of fire. Spread them out a little more and they will combine their power to create a 'super-beam' that will slice through the screen like a doomsday blade.

 Shoot 1UP Shoot 1UP

Of course, with your ships further apart they're far more likely to be caught in the hailstorm of enemy ammunition, so you'll need to look sharp to avoid all the incoming fire. That's when the pinch comes in handy, as the two fingered move normally associated with zoom out (make things smaller) will recall your ships into a tight defensive formation, right down to the point of almost flying on top of each other. You lose the wall of death, but it's far more likely your fleet will survive.

So you have this delightful quandary to always consider - go wide to fire and die, or go small and sneak through the wall of enemies.

All of this fancy control system would be moot if the actual gameplay, level design, and graphics were rubbish. Good news, they're not!

For all the action that's available in Shoot 1UP, the key to the game is patience. You don't need to shoot every single enemy the second they appear on the screen - in fact that's a recipe for disaster. You need to wait, watch, decide, and then put your plan into action at every point n the game. Far from being a mindless gun-fest, you'll need to use the grey matter to have any chance of longevity in this game.

The screen is almost permanently busy with something to consider, be it a small enemy ship, an end of level baddie, a multitude of bullets, or extra pick-ups for you to race for. Neither does it stay as a vertical shooter. As you play you get decision points where you can carry on flying 'up' the screen or turn to the left or right and have a few minutes of a horizontal scrolling shooter, which makes for a nice change, but with so much ducking and weaving to do, practically, it doesn't have a huge impact on the gameplay.

The only tiny issue that might cause confusion is when you are picking up the shields for the extra points - they are shaped a bit like a triangle, but are coloured the same as the enemy bullets, so there are moments when a good pick-up can be mistaken for a bad thing to crash a ship into, but being honest this goes with the territory of a fast paced action game, and countless classy games have had this issue and it doesn't diminish them. Neither does it diminish Shoot 1UP, although on the smaller screen it's a touch more frustrating to realise that you don't need to avoid what you've been avoiding.

 Shoot 1UPShoot 1UP  

As you go though the game, you'll find that you'll need to be very accurate with your movement. There's always an apparent path through the enemies and the bullets, but actually navigating it is a little trickier. You'll lose more ships trying to get through these passages than crashing into the enemy ships.

There's a chirpy and upbeat dance track as the backing music, lots of crisp sound effects, and I particularly like the alert tone when the end of level baddie is set to appear - it adds enough of an ominous air to let you know something big (and difficult) is on the way.

Shoot 1UP even allows you to tweak the difficulty level and the speed of the game, so old-school arcade fans like me can rack it up to expert and put everything to increased speed to recreate that punishing 1986 feeling of being useless at a game. For everyone else, the default normal/100% levels provide a worthwhile challenge, with the right level of a learning curve matched with the 'almost, but not quite, impossible to beat' levels.

This is a great addition to the Xbox Live stable of games. It looks like it's been on the shelf for some time (it doesn't appear to be using the fast-app switching for example) but I'm glad it's here now. It's not going to attract anyone to the genre that's not already a fan, but for those of us who are looking for a decent shooter, we have ourselves a new champion on Windows Phone.

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