Space Blaze, published by UIG Entertainment, just came out for the Nintendo Switch. Inspired by the classic arcade shoot’em up games we grew up with, we decided to check it out. Don’t have a Switch? You can also play the PS4 version.
The main sources of inspiration for Space Blaze were clear the moment we saw the first screenshots for the game. With its sci-fi theme, horizontal scrolling shoot’em up action and visual style, it resembles the liked of Gradius and especially R-Type. The reference to the latter is especially clear when you look at the metal/flesh hybrids that make up the game’s bosses.
Space Blaze only features 7 levels, but there’s some diversity in how they play – with one level panning vertically as you progress through it. It’s a good effect that gives an added sense of scale to the battle that’s going on, but the game engine does struggle to keep up as it happens and the screen fills itself with enemies and bullets.
The boss fights at the end of a level are well designed from a visual point of view, but poorly implemented when you focus on how they actually play – one of them doesn’t even fire at you, so it’s insanely easy to beat him. And no, he doesn’t fly all around the screen to try and hit you either. Other bosses do fire, but don’t offer much of a challenge either – taking away the kind of satisfaction you usually feel after you win a boss fight.
The actual shooting during a level is far from perfect as well. There’s no tutorial or menu screen that explains the controls to you, but it doesn’t take long to figure out you have one button for regular fire (that you can hold down for auto-fire) and one for a strong blast – which you have a limited supply of. You can pick up power-ups as you go along, and over time you learn these are color-coded in terms of what you do – which can be a boost to your weapons, or new weapons altogether.
It’s fairly by the book, but held back by some not-so-great collision detection. It’s often unclear what’s part of the foreground and what’s in the background, so you can suddenly and unexpectedly die instantly from obstacles you thought were perfectly safe to fly past – especially because you just flew by parts of it that didn’t hurt you at all. This, along with the poor boss fights, makes Space Blaze far from the best option you can get if you want a classic arcade shoot’em up.
Speaking of which, it’s placed at a price point that matches Sine Mora EX, which is vastly superior and has been on sale at 70% off already. Sine Mora’s a superior shooter in many ways – from gameplay to presentation, so I suggest looking in that direction first. I’ll say one good thing about Space Blaze though – as a retro-inspired title, it sure does have a great soundtrack. It was composed by Markus Siebold, whose work dates back to the Commodore 64 days where he converted Chris Hülsbeck’s masterful score for Turrican II to the C64. Space Blaze’s music isn’t quite as iconic, but it’s a lovely mix of modern and retro. Too bad it’s not enough to save a sub-par shoot’em up though.