Review: Big Sky Infinity

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The shoot ’em up genre has underwent something of a renaissance this console generation. As with many other ‘niche’ genres, they have benefited greatly from delivery via digital download. It was Geometry Wars and Super Stardust who rekindled my love affair with all things shooty spaceship, then Futurlab’s Velocity came out of nowhere to send me head over heels. So can the Voo Foo Studios and Boss Baddie collaboration for PS3 and Vita, Big Sky Infinity, steal my shoot ’em up heart all over again?

Big Sky Infinity’s hook is in its randomly generated levels. There are no set patterns or waves to learn here, the game simply conjures up intergalactic skyscapes filled with enemies. The randomisation breaks monotony, but it can also be to the detriment of a consistent experience, and this is where BSI  unfortunately comes a cropper. It’s just too random.

Playing the game’s Classic mode, a life can last either 20 seconds or multiple minutes without having much of a reflection of the player’s skill. It pretty much all depends on how kind the game’s level generation has been. This makes getting into that ‘zen’ state that the best shooters provide a tremendously difficult task. Compared to the likes of Super StardustBSI is inconsistent and at some points borderline infuriating. There are simply too many barriers to getting any sort of rhythm going or feeling progression has been made.   Which is a damn shame, as there are some nice ideas in here.

Proceedings can get very crazy very quickly and too many times the end result is just too much going on at once. At its most hectic moments there can be: The ship; bullets; pick ups; an aura that pulses as collectibles are picked up; an aura that pulses when enemies are shot; background effects and environmental hazards. It makes deciphering what is an effect and what is an enemy or hazard come down to pure guesswork. For a game that relies so much on high scores, punishing the player with randomness is exasperating.

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On the occasions when the game does get going, BSI throws up some fun gameplay. It can be really satisfying traversing a level and powering up your ship’s laseer. Players will also need to intermittently drill throw planets that appear, a quick tap of R1 or X switches on the drill. Switching between spraying laser fire at enemies and drilling through planets or asteroids is a unique twist that breaks up the bullet-hell chaos from time to time. Boss battles are screen-filling and employ some nice uses pattern recognition as the player weaves through the usual thousands of bullets. If Boss Baddie had focused on setting out levels then perhaps the good elements here would have shone brighter.

A special mention must be given to the game’s narrator, who has perhaps the most annoying voice and lines of any British character ever. No really, he’s is that bad. When a player is already irritated at another unfair death, it’s a bit much to have his smug voice cry out “Oh you twonk!” amongst other equally redundant and inane soundbites. Thankfully he can be switched off in the game’s options, but it does beg the question: who thought this guy was a good idea?

I really wanted to like Big Sky Infinity. The core of a decent-to-good shoot ’em up is in there somewhere, but there are just too many poor design choices obscuring it.  Hopefully lessons will be learned and if given a second chance, Boss Baddie can provide another quality addition to the PlayStation’s already impressive shooter library. This iteration is best left alone though.

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