The ideas of virtual reality and general video game immersion can be traced back to the 1980’s when computers and video games were a wild, untamed frontier. Rebellion Software’s famous arcade game, Battlezone, featured a periscope in their arcade cabinet, requiring players to place their eyes up towards a visor to simulate tank combat. 3D glasses were distributed in movie theaters across the country, to give viewers the sensation of objects popping out at them.
However, it was the 1983 sci-fi classic, Tron, that gave us a truly immersive experience by bringing together the idea of a human being transported into the very game system he created. What seemed like fun and jubilation on the outside of the screen turn into a deadly fight for one’s life as simple spaceships and laser fire turns into explosions and destruction. What was thought to be a digital paradise has turned into a living hell? This is the setup for Blasters Of The Universe, a VR arcade wave-shooter with bullet-hell mechanics, coming from Canada-based Secret Location. While VR has ushered in a large number of arcade shoot-’em-up, Blasters Of The Universe provided an amazing experience that set itself apart from the back. This was a nightmare I was glad to dive into.
Blasters Of The Universe puts players right into the middle of a twisted game, filled with deadly enemies and bosses. Despite its digital landscape and awe-inspiring cities, this is a deadly world filled with mechanical monstrosities and deadly digital soldiers. All of this is the work of The Grandmaster. In the real-world, The Grandmaster was a lowly player, bullying other players and constantly throwing quarters into machines to beat their high score. This player was also a mad genius, plugging in an experimental VR headset into a brand new arcade machine. Suddenly, a freak accident occurs, and he is beamed onto the very game system he helped conquer. With no wait out, the digital world transformed him, giving him raw, unrelenting power, allowing him to create his own nightmarish game. Now, in 2018, with the dawning of VR headsets, he now challenges any player to stop him in his conquest of the video game world. You are that challenger, and across 5 insane staged, you will dodge, shoot, deflect, and survive in order to save the digital world.
Blasters Of The Universe begins with allowing you to craft the preferred blaster of your choice. The game features a variety of customization options, and by the end of the game, you would have unlocked a significant variety of options. Bullet type, range, firing rate, and special abilities are just some of the options present to players. For me, I went with an explosive-tipped bullet a moderate firing rate and large ammunition capacity with the dual blasters special perk. The blaster will be confined to your left arm. On your right hand will be a special shield. The shield can be used to deflect or absorb bullets, which is great for when enemies that surprise you. After testing out your setup, you are free to embark on one of five missions presented to you.
Blasters Of The Universe lives up to its bullet hell mechanics, as enemies will begin their barrage moments after the beginning of the stage. Enemies will come in various shapes and sizes from both the ground and the air. Soldiers will fire a multitude of shots while snipers will lock on and attempt instant hits from a long distance. Drones will strafe the player with constant laser fire, and missile welding machines will launch devastating attacks. Each level will be a challenge, especially on hard. Players do have a secret weapon, and that is their agility. Players play Blasters Of The Universe by standing, using two controllers and the VR headset. Each laser shot is intended to strike players in the head. If a shot hits you there, you lose health. However, the rest of your body is protected. The key to survival, and racking up big points, is to dodge bullets. Ducking, leaning, and squatting will be essential for survival. You will have to line your head up with a small opening in the laser fire to survive enemy barrages. If you are successful, you will earn big points.
Blasters Of The Universe goes to great lengths to have you feeling like you are in the thick of the action. Enemies come from every corner of your 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions. The thumping synthwave soundtrack and the distinctive sound of enemy blaster fire really put you in the thick of the chaos. Every pulsating fire of your weapon feels incredible and using your shield at a moment’s notice feels fantastic. The random placement of the enemy will keep you on your toes, and the sensation of feeling massive energy shots whizzing past your head is extremely satisfying.
The grandmaster will be against you throughout each of the five levels, constantly taunting you and making pop culture references. Some of his statements are actually quite humorous. I had a few chuckles to myself as the villain even referenced Tim Burton’s Batman with a nod to the famous line of Dancing With The Devil. Another nice touch is you will see and hear him throughout the game, building that feeling that the villains have a personal vendetta against you, the player.
The gameplay in Blasters of the Universe is absolutely exciting. You genuinely feel you are playing a game in the battle for your life. Enemies are aggressive, laser fire is everywhere, he colorful explosions erupt when an enemy is taken down. Using your blaster is a lot of fun, especially when enabling special perks. My personal favorite was the dual wielding plasma cannons, which mercilessly mowed down enemies for a short time. Each of the game’s boss fights were also imaginative, as well as a lot of fun to defeat!
My only real complaint with Blasters Of THe Universe is the length. While each level has two difficulty modes and an endless wave mode, there are only five levels. I could have definitely seen this game expand to 20 levels, incorporating new enemies and embracing more nods to pop culture. There could have been an on-rails Star Wars-inspired segment or a level where giant cybernetic sharks leap out of the water to try and kill you, in reference to Jaws. Despite this, the foundation is ripe with ideas, so if there ever is a Blasters Of The Universe 2, it could certainly expand.
Blasters Of The Universe stands out from the crowd. Its Tron-inspired setting is thrilling, its enemies are a challenge, and its mechanics of constantly dodging and shooting is absolute fun. In the sea of other VR shooter out there, Blasters Of The Universe is one you shouldn’t miss, and one that you don’t need your Blockbuster card for.