Super Destronaut DX
Developed By: Petite Games
Published By: Ratalaika Games
Category: Arcade, Action
Release Date: 7.13.18
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make a game that’s really fun to play. Super Destronaut DX for the Nintendo Switch is a shining example of that. Petite Games has basically taken Space Invaders and added a new coat of paint, but dang it all if it isn’t fun as heck.
So… it’s Space Invaders, like I said. There are rows of aliens or robots or whatever, and they move to one side, drop down, move to other side, and drop down again, etc. You control a space ship firing up at them, and clearing a whole wave of them generates another wave. So the basics of gameplay aren’t anything revolutionary, but there a few wrinkles introduced into the formula. First of all, every enemy type can fire projectiles at you. Every different enemy fires its own unique type of bullet, so dodging them each requires a different strategy.
Oftentimes a wave of enemies will have a unique enemy slipped into the top row. Destroying that enemy will temporarily grant you a weapon power-up. You can shoot three bullets at once, shoot two laser beams that pass through enemies, exploding bullets, and homing missiles that track down enemies. Having a power-up really increases your destructive power, and it just feels good to take out enemies by the dozen when you’re powered up.
Occasionally when you destroy enemies, they’ll leave behind a transparent white shade of themselves that falls towards the bottom of the screen. Shooting it gets you bonus points, but be careful; it can’t be destroyed, so while you can rack up points by shooting it a bunch, if it touches you it counts the same as getting hit by a bullet or obstacle. You lose a life if you get hit, and in most modes you only get three lives. These shades also randomly generate on the screen and come towards you along the bottom of the screen, so you’ll need to be on the lookout for them as well.
Super Destronaut DX has a few different game modes. Challenge mode presents you with a goal such as killing a certain number of enemies within a time limit, and you must do that to complete the challenge. Classic mode sees you facing an infinite number of enemy waves and the goal is to drive your score as high as possible by staying alive for as long as possible. Time attack mode is a lot like classic, except instead of lives you have a timer. You have to score as may points as possible before time runs out. Hardcore mode is just like classic, except you only get one life instead of three. Each of the modes provides a good amount of challenge, and the game is overall a lot of fun to play.
There is a multiplayer mode as well, which sees two people competing against each other in a time attack mode game type. Two players get two minutes to see how many points they can each rack up; most points wins. It is what it is; it’s not especially compelling as far as multiplayer experiences go. It doesn’t generate the same camaraderie of a co-op game, and it doesn’t generate the same satisfaction of head-to-head competition like a fighting or racing game. If you’re looking for a game to play with friends… look somewhere else, I guess.
The game has a modern take on Atari 2600-style graphics, which looks pretty cool. The different enemies are simple, monochrome pixel-based sprites with minimal animation. The background is mostly solid black, broken up by some wireframe trees and rocks as you fly across the landscape. Some particle graphics are used for explosions which looks smooth and give the game a more modern feel to go along with the vintage look of most of the game. It’s overall pretty slick and attractive, though; I dug it.
Like a lot of modern retro styled games, the soundtrack is a fast-paced electronic beat. It was repetitive but catchy. There was a weird audio effect that activated whenever you gained a power-up; the game would briefly slow down, and the sound would slow down and/or skip with it. It kind of sounded horrible, and the first few times it happened I thought I had died or done something bad. It was pretty jarring, and didn’t really fit the tone of what was happening. Once I got used to it, it was no big deal, but it felt like an odd choice.
Super Destronaut DX for Nintendo Switch has no touch or motion controls, so it plays as well docked or undocked. In multiplayer mode, I’d recommend either having two pro controllers or two sets of Joycons. I hate using a single Joycon; I just can’t seem to get a comfortable hold on one. Given its casual nature, I’d recommend the game for undocked play since it’s something you can just pick and play on the go.
TL;DR: Lots of fun, even if it’s not exactly original.