What if you added mechs, melee combat, light RPG elements and couch co-op gameplay to a classic side scrolling SHMUP? You’d have Stardust Galaxy Warriors; that’s what. If any of those descriptors strike your fancy, you will love this indie bullet hell from Dreamloop Games.
Right off the bat, this game makes a good impression. The art is simplistic and polished, and the music is fantastic. Stardust Galaxy Warriors has a full-length soundtrack of retro inspired synth tracks that range from fun and quirky dance beats to intense and motivational rhythms. This means every level has it’s own music to go along with unique background environments. The full soundtrack can be downloaded as from Steam and features as one of the many high points of this game.
Set in space and populated by spaceships, asteroids, and mechs, the art portrays the setting and what’s going on well. Environments range from outer space scenes to robot factories and exotic planetscapes and are a nice touch for each differing level that correlates to the story. The four different playable characters have distinct looks and colors that help differentiate them and give them some personality.
While the background art is nice, it can get in the way of color coordination. It’s kind of crucial to gameplay that players can differentiate things by their color. Unfortunately, the pretty backgrounds can mess with colors of player characters and items making them hard to recognize. The color issue is in no way game breaking but at times mildly frustrating.
The story is delved out in text boxes in between combat stages and is more or less unnecessary, sometimes even overcrowding the screen. The plot follows the predictable “there’s a bad guy, go kill it” premise but to Stardust Galaxy Warriors credit it does have a huge untelegraphed twist at the end.
Although the story is underwhelming, the characters are fun. Between the little snippets of dialogue and character design, the personality of the four different characters comes across well. All the characters are rather fun and likable, but you’re going to choose them based on their skill sets, not their personalities. The game tries hard to be humorous, yet the jokes mostly fall flat with a few laughter-eliciting quips sprinkled throughout. The game certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a palpable sense of fun and an enjoyable irreverent tone with enemies like a talking asteroid, giant disco ball, and Gundula von Ubelvamp.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors can be played solo, but it’s more fun with a friend by your side. Up to four people can play at a time and there are four different classes to choose, ranging from defensive support to melee berserker. Aside from their visual design, the characters are differentiated by a unique attack and special ability in addition to their weapons. All classes have the same selection of primary and secondary weapons, and each has a basic melee attack.
The inclusion of melee attacks changes up the classic shoot ’em up gameplay by allowing players to attack enemies that have gotten too close or switch between more passive and aggressive maneuvers, darting in and out of enemy clusters. This combination of ranged and melee combat gels well with the side scrolling movement. If you find that a weapon combo isn’t working for you or isn’t well suited to the enemies you’re facing, they can be changed out in between levels allowing players to create strategies.
All the classes and weapons seem pretty well balanced so that players can choose their preferred method of destruction. If you’re soloing Stardust Galaxy Warriors, it’s recommended to take a higher DPS class, but every available combo of guns and classes seems viable. Perhaps it’s because they can choose from the same weapons set as everyone else, but the support class can really hold it’s own and won’t be relegated to the parties’ servant. In fact, the support class’s shield abilities are extremely helpful, almost to the point of being overpowered, allowing parties to hide behind their shield and destroy everything without taking a point of damage.
More RPG elements come as upgradable abilities when players progress through the game. After clearing a stage, players will be able to choose from a randomly generated selection of three abilities. A store is available at the end of each level with a nice selection of possible upgrades. The better you do during combat, the more buying power you’ll have. It’s a nice reward at the end of every level. Oh, and did I mention that the game is extremely customizable letting players dial up or down the difficulty level by changing details like enemy fire rate? A really nice feature to get just the right difficulty level.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors’ gameplay can be summed up by a line of dialog from the game “ Fly right and shoot everything”. Players can gain power-ups along the way and destroy asteroids, spaceships, and bugs as you scroll across the foreground. You’ll want a controller to play this game, although keyboard controls are supported. Unfortunately, there’s no explanation of the controls that I could find, so it may take a few runs to get a hang of them. Once you do though, they’re easy to use.
Enemy diversity is good, not great. Baddies have distinct attack patterns and while the repetition allows players to develop strategies some can get boring. A few boss battles offer exciting challenges that are rewarding to overcome, and a handful of others seem too simple.
Retro nostalgia abounds in Stardust Galaxy Warriors with Centipede and Space Invader themed enemies. While the game pays a decent amount of homage to its outdated predecessors, it’s not a slave to nostalgia. It sprinkles in references to the old classics and builds on the basics of the side scrolling shooters before it.
In addition to a ten level campaign, there are also challenge modes for players to try their hands at. All the stages in this mode are for up to four players and include an endless gauntlet mode and various other challenges. There’s also a fun bonus level available outside of the campaign and a leaderboard.
There are some annoying glitches in the game. In multiplayer there are issues such as the player two character’s weapons resetting to match player one’s. The developers have been attentive to fixing issues, and more fixes are due out with an upcoming update, but as is some glitches may make the game unplayable or frustrating in multiplayer.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors is a game designed for veterans of the SHMUP genre, but newcomers may find it enjoyable once they figure out the controls. It takes classic gameplay and spices it up with the addition of melee attacks and RPG elements. The character’s and overall tone of the game are fun. The music and art are great. There are still some bugs the developers are working out and it doesn’t do everything perfectly, but that doesn’t stop it from being challenging and rewarding to play.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by Dreamloop Games.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors takes classic SHMUP gameplay and spices it up with the addition of melee attacks and RPG elements. There’s still some bugs the developers are working out and it doesn’t do everything perfectly but that doesn’t stop it from being extremely fun.