by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Fullblast, from the get-go, is about as average of a shoot 'em up as one can make. You control a plane fighting back against an alien invasion force that attacks the planet. The plane's got a gun that can be upgraded through pick ups that aliens occasionally drop, and you've got big bombs that help clear the screen when the going gets tough. And you scroll through levels as wave after wave of insect like alien ships move in programmed patterns and overwhelm you with a million dodgeable bullets. Standard fare for any game of this sort. But in here, it all just feels bland.
Flight of the Bland
The story, or what there is of one, boils down to a solo pilot defending the world from aliens. Not that anyone plays these sorts of games for a story, so it is pretty pointless. It’s a setup to allow for the game to be creative in its designs, from the levels to the enemies. Which does not happen in FullBlast. The enemies, all of whom resemble insects to varying degrees, are uniformly bland and uninspiring. Most are colour palette swapped versions of each other, with the occasional giant sized one to spice things up. To be fair, they are all animated well and on a technical level they are by no means ugly looking. They just aren't that impressive.
Same goes for the environments, of which there are three major ones a city, jungle and an sea with icebergs. As such, you'll be flying over the same areas over and over again in the course of each level. Even levels that are in the same environment, such as the city, will repeat the same coastline and cityscapes again. However, as you go from level to level, the areas will slightly change with more and more destruction as a result of the alien invasion. Try as it might, this isn’t enough to shake off the blandness in the aesthetic. It is perfectly serviceable, but uninspiring.
Fast Music, Slow Game
Perhaps the primary reason the environments feel so repetitive is that the game is paced so slowly. By that, I mean the environments scroll by at a very slow rate, which meant that I was able to examine the environment much more closely when you are moving slower than the cars on the streets below. You're in a jet for crying out loud. Would it not make sense for it to feel like you are going fast, engaged in a fierce dogfight? Instead, the alien ships slowly meander their way on to the screen, whereby you line them up in your sights in a slightly faster manner. Slow is not an adjective that I want to describe a bullet hell game with.
Funnily enough, the slowness also weakens one of the positive aspects of FullBlast: the music. The heavy metal inspired soundtrack is pretty good, even if it does feel repetitive when listened to for a long period of time. Yet the tonal difference between the fast paced music on top of the slow pace of the game inadvertently makes the repetition in the music more noticeable.
Yet when it comes down to it, the most important factor in a game like this is whether or not the gameplay is any good. Piloting your plane and shooting down aliens is serviceable, even with the slowness and repetition described above. There are times where the game seems extremely unfair, such as when there are so many bullets on screen that you feel as though as though you are forced to take a hit with no option to dodge. Thankfully, those encounters are rare. What is more problematic is the randomness by which you gain power-ups. Occasionally, you will receive six or more bullet upgrades in a row, but there are long stretches where you may only get one bomb in a three minute section. Far as I can tell there is no rhyme or reason to it. In addition, those bullet upgrades I mentioned are uniformly boring, with little variety in the types of shots you will receive.
Every time I think about FullBlast, I come back to a lack of variety. Little change in enemy type, repetitive levels, repeating music and the bland gameplay all evoke this. The best games in this genre are the opposite of that, with changes in nearly every level that make the game worth playing. Nothing of that sort is found here.
Serviceable, Slight Charm
Lack of variety in everything, overly repetitive, bland