Blasters of the Universe – PAX West Hands-On Preview
At one point or another, we have all played a VR game and felt like the main hero in another world. Additionally, there is a high likelihood that you have watched the sci-fi classic Tron and Tron: Legacy and embarked on a grand adventure onto a digital frontier.
Now, imagine a game where players are thrust into a digital universe. A madman is threatening the computer world and the real world, and it’s up to you to fight him in the very game he created. It’s a game where losing means extinction and victory means to become the master of the digital universe.
From Canada-based Secret Location comes Blasters of The Universe, a VR Bullet-hell shooter that made quite the experience at the Indie Mega Booth at PAX West. While passing by, I could not help but be drawn into the game, seeing the neon-colored visuals and the logo, which is a very clear nod to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films. I decided to wait in line, and give the game a try.
The premise of Blasters of the Universe is quite interesting, and anyone familiar with Tron, 1980’s nostalgia, or stories of being sucked into a digital realm will be very at home here. In the late 1980’s a young but brilliant video game designer is building one of the very first VR setups, along with his own games. By the early 1990’s. VR is becoming a real possibility with the rise of new 16-bit game systems and titles.
However, shortly after launch, the industry starts tanking. This young designer, determined to become that next legendary innovator, takes matters into his own hands and undergoes a VR experiment. The experiment goes awry and he is literally digitized, sucked into the void of games that he helped to create. Trapped, he witnesses the end of the 1990’s VR dream and sits idly by as gaming moves on without him. The year is 2017, with VR making a comeback, he seeks payback against the industry and the world. it is up to you to stop him.
After putting on the headset, I was greeted with an armory selection. I had a choice between and explosive-round weapons and an automatic laser rifle. I chose the laser rifle and was given a few moments to adjust to the interface. Within moments, I was beamed onto the grid, ready to fight this cyber menace. Immediately, the main villain taunts me, mentioning how I looked like someone who worked at a Blockbuster. Before long, I was already facing a small army of enemies. Of course, I was ready for anything.
Enemies soon came from the left, right, and the foreground. I couldn’t help but get a little more than immersed into the game, using the entire area for VR movement. An important piece of knowledge is to know that enemies will target your head, but not the body. However, they will deploy lots and lots of bullets, as well as lasers. This is a VR Bullet-hell shooter, after all, and the bad guys want you completely dead.
The experience was euphoric, as well as an absolute blast. I pointed and held my laser rifle, even turning it sideways in order to adequately deal with the enemy masses. The weapon on my left arm was a reflective shield. With it, I absorbed and deflected a variety of shots back at the enemy.
This was quintessential, as the enemy consisted of robot soldiers on the ground and flying enemy types, constantly swirling through the air. I dodged bullets, bounded them back, then proceeded to use the laser rifle. The rifle felt like something John Rambo would wield, hearing, as well, as feeling, every heavy rapid pulse leaving the gun. This feeling was most profound, during the special power-ups of the guns, which allowed me to fire heavy purple plasma shots for a short time.
Finally, there was the boss, a giant red robot donning the face of the main antagonist. The boss was not easy, firing missiles and deploying vertical laser beams towards me. The missiles were difficult to shoot down, as they flew in sporadic directions, but this was compounded by the fact that searing lasers headed towards me as well.
I moved my entire body, quickly and successfully dodging the lasers, but also getting hit by missiles losing my score multiplier in the process. I flowed with the situation, using my laser rifle to destroy the missiles, and shields whenever I could. After a determined bout, I managed to defeat the boss, seeing the mad robot explode in pixelated fury. With that, the demo was over.
Visually, Blasters Of the Universe was astounding and looked to have the right amount of lighting and color hues to really nail the aesthetic of being in a 1980’s computer nightmare. If the goal was to remind me of the movie, Tron, the team definitely succeeded in this. The enemies and antagonist all look and feel right with atmosphere and the gameplay was incredibly fun. The soundtrack was also stellar, complete with a heightened 80’s synthwave soundtrack. I am really glad I had time to have checked this one out.
Blasters of the Universe is now available on Steam for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. The team is looking to release the game for the PlayStation VR sometime in the near future.