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Blue Rider Review
Once upon a time, games were simple: nothing but you, a gun, and a whole lot of bad guys between you and the goal. Blue Rider brings that philosophy back, striping out every trace of unnecessary complexity and boiling gaming down to its purest form. It’s a game of dodging, shooting, and not much else. It might not look like much, and it probably won’t set your world on fire, but if you’ve been looking for some old fashioned arcade style action, this might be the game for you.
Blue Rider follows a simple pattern: each of the game’s levels offers a largely linear obstacle course of killer robots. Piloting the titular robot, you’ll fight your way through these robots in a sort of free moving bullet hell, dodging their lasers and rockets while keeping up a steady stream of return fire. Evasion is definitely the key here, so you’ll need both the situational awareness to respond to attacks from every direction and the hand-eye coordination to slip through the gaps in the enemy’s fire. Make it the end of the stage and you’ll face a huge boss robot, with stronger attacks and more complex firing patterns, which you’ll need to defeat to finish the level. As you would expect from a game in this genre, you can find power ups to aid you in your mission, though their variety is sadly limited, giving you only a couple of options in how to mow down your foes.
You’ll need all the power-ups you can get your hands on if you want to beat the game, because blue rider is hard. Really, really hard. The regular enemies are numerous and powerful, often attacking from multiple directions with huge volleys of bullets, but they aren’t the real problem. Practice and memorization should see you through the levels after enough tries, but the bosses at the end of each stage are where the real punishment lies. Instant kill attacks, impenetrable barriers, weapons that strike from multiple angles, and more await you as you progress through Blue Rider, and every stage ramps the difficult up further. Of course, brutal difficulty can be a positive for a game, and beating one of these towering behemoths certainly feels satisfying, but the lack of mid-mission checkpoints means that Blue Rider can become extremely frustrating.
Despite the unrelenting difficulty, Blue Rider is a lot of fun to play. There’s nothing complex about it, no lengthy cut-scenes, and no arcane progression systems. It’s a pure test of your reflexes, coordination and memory. The simple mechanics and short mission length (levels take around 15 minutes) make it a perfect “one more try” game, and you’ll find yourself coming back again and again to make one more attempt at a level you angrily declared to be impossible ten minutes ago. Even if you never manage to beat it, there’s a real sense of satisfaction in being able to see yourself get a little bit better every time, one that’s rare in an era of “cinematic” games that hold your hand every step of the way. That said though, this isn’t the deepest game ever, and the repetition does begin to wear thin after a while, so it’s probably best to play in short bursts.
Sadly, the no-frills approach that makes the game-play successful is distinctly less interesting when applied to the game’s visuals, which are distinctly underwhelming. While the colors are bright and clear, the environments feel bland and uninspired. You’ll fight in grassy woodlands, barren canyons, and the obligatory snow level, all of which are immediately forgettable. The enemy designs fare little better, most being some variation on the theme of “blocky robot with a cannon”. The bosses are a little more interesting, but still unlikely to really impress anyone who’s ever played a video game before. Enemies and bullets do stand out well enough from the background that you rarely lose track of them, so the graphical issues are rarely a detriment to the actual game-play.
The sound is even blander than the graphics. The background music is so forgettable that it vanishes from the mind within seconds of turning the game off, though to it’s credit it’s never annoying or distracting. The same sadly can’t be said for the firing sound effect. Since shooting is basically all you do in Blue Rider, the auditory environment of the game is a never ending stream of laser sounds that are just a little too loud, often making it difficult to hear the rest of the soundtrack.
Blue Rider is a straightforward game. You drive, you shoot, you die, and then you start again and try to do better next time. To some, this will make it “basic”, “repetitive” or “archaic”, to others it will be “pure” or “challenging”. If you fall into the latter camp, and are comfortable with games that demand a whole lot of practice and patience, then it’s definitely worth a shot. If you prefer your game to look pretty and feel polished, you should probably skip this one.
Blue Rider was played on Xbox One.