I love the Xbox. The platform has been a mainstay of mine for a while now. Of all the years I’ve owned one though, I’ve felt a definite shift in games focus, a disturbance in the force if you will. The games that have been coming out have been great, don’t get me wrong, and there’s been platformers, first-person shooters, racers, rpgs and flight games galore, but there seemed to be something missing. When I first saw Power Up, I realised what that missing something was.
Power Up, then, is an all-action side-scrolling shooter. You are the last human being alive, hunted to extinction after being chased through the galaxy by the ruthless Lizard race. Piloting the Prototype Fighter Weapon- F, it’s your mission to exact revenge on the Lizard’s home planet. That’s your story, time to take control of your fighter and lay them to waste. The prologue sets the scene for you and allows you to get used to the control method and your own velocity of movement.
If you’re of a certain age, it’s here you’ll notice a few similarities to some older game classics if you will, only updated, made that little bit better. The graphics for example, are slick, uncluttered and clean. You’ll start off by avoiding debris from the last Earth transport ship and you’ll be faced with fast-moving smaller debris to slower, spinning hulks of metal, all gorgeously rendered. In the next few levels you’ll meet your foe and despatch them in a blaze of laser-fire. The scrolling, even with the multi-layered scenery, is smoother than an android’s bottom and the gameplay itself doesn’t slow down even with the maximum amount of enemy fire and indeed, enemy ships on-screen.
The screen itself is all enclosed nicely by the HUD. This shows you the current state of your weapons, speed, shield, number of ships and which weapon is currently selected. The weapons you start with are all low in power, and there are five selectable basic weapons to choose from, with the bumpers. Lasers fire forward, there is a rear fire, split forward fire, side fire and a curious forward fire that looks really ineffectual. That’s not all you get though. Tap the right trigger, and, if you have any, a double wall of white death spews forth from your Weapon-F, destroying everything in sight.
In the heat of the action, when switching weapons and picking up the many power-ups that are available, you’ll get an audible notification of the deed. This is clear, concise and plays well in the game and over the well composed background music. Each weapon has a unique sound too, as well as the all-consuming fireblast. It’s very evident that a lot of attention to detail has gone into each aspect of the game and this hasn’t been lost in presentation or gameplay.
Each weapon and indeed your speed and shield can be upgraded by picking up the regularly floating power-up bubbles that drift seamlessly across the screen. My favourite trick, with many weapons to upgrade, is to upgrade the first one fully, as that laser at full power is devastating, and quickly flick to the next weapon just before picking up the weapon power up. Tricky, but very rewarding if you can pull it off.
So, overall, Power Up is a fantastic little game. There are several chapters to play through, all with end of level bosses to defeat. There are 4 difficulty levels to play through and different ship paint jobs to collect and play with after completing each difficulty or playing for a specific length of time. My only gripes and they are very minor gripes, are that the set of chapters are short, and there is an absence of multiplayer, but this is me being very picky if anything. This will appeal to those who remember the likes of R-Type, X-Out and I definitely see some Battle Squadron and Blood Money influences in there. If you’re ever not sure what the Indie Games Marketplace can offer you, spend a miserly 69p on Power Up and sample some high-end, pick up and play side-scrolling shooter action, because honestly, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t. Power Up is that missing something, a hark back and more than a nod to the side-scrolling shooters of old, and it does it with a cleanliness and a style befitting to be called a classic of its time.