During a Gamescom meeting with publisher Assemble Entertainment, we got a look at Squadron 51, one of the most stylish arcade shooters we’ve ever seen. Here’s a closer look.
What we know
Produced by Loomiarts and Fehorama Filmes and published by WhisperGames in China and by Assemble worldwide, Squadron 51 is a classic side-scrolling arcade shooter set against the backdrop of a 1950s B-movie aesthetic. That doesn’t just mean that there’s a cheesy plot involving aliens invading the earth and a group of brave fighter pilots coming to the rescue, it also translates to the audiovisual presentation of the game in more ways than one.
Squadron 51 includes full motion video segments that were shot in the style of 1950s movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds and Earth vs Flying Saucers. You’ll also see the special effects of those days represented in-game, as flying saucers move a little erratically as though they’re being bounced around on a string.
Most striking, however, are the game’s black and white visuals, which perfectly capture that classic B-movie feel across 11 levels in which you fight against the alien army of Director Zarog. The game will feature four different airplanes to choose from, all of which have special weapons, and will support multiplayer gameplay as well. There’s a free to play prologue planned for later this year, with a full release for PC, Xbox, PlayStation and the Switch due in 2022.
What we saw
During Gamescom, we met with Giordano Gio and Matheus Piccoli from Fehorama Filmes, the executive producers for Squadron 51, which is being created by Marcio Rosa from Loomiarts. Fehorama Filmes is originally a film-focused company from Brazil and this is their first foray into videogames.
We saw a hands-off demo of the game being played as the producers explained their vision for the game and some of the creative choices that were made, after which there was plenty of room for a Q&A session as well.
What we thought
The classic arcade shooter is a rare breed these days, and it’s even more rare to see a developer take a chance on something very different within the genre. Squadron 51 is that game, as the 1950s B-movie look is absolutely great to look at.
The build we saw featured a Brazilian dub, but the game will be translated into English and Chinese before it’s released and will also have subtitles for several other languages. Although we weren’t able to hear that English dub just yet, if they manage to make it sound as cheesy as some of the films this is based on then they’ve already got a potential winner on their hands.
Looking past the visual style, the gameplay is reminiscent of arcade shooters like P-47, although the team is using modern HD visuals rather than the retro look that we see so many shooters take these days – especially in the indie scene. This pays off because it mixes well with the B-movie feel of the FMV sequences, and makes the action look as though it’s an integral part of the story. The only immersion-breaking aspects were the UI elements underneath the plane to show that special weapons were recharging – while the rest of the screen looked movie-like, those elements were very “videogame-like”.
It’s hard to judge the quality of the shoot ’em up gameplay based on a short demo, but the audiovisual approach of Squadron 51 makes sure that this is near the top of our watch list for next year – one of the most refreshing takes on a classic genre we’ve seen in a long time.