I am an admitted RPG fan but I also have gaming soft spot for shooters and I am not talking the first-person variety. Though, I have logged more hours in Destiny and Overwatch than I am willing to let my wife see. Shooters aka Shoot ‘Em Ups aka SHMUPS aka STG aka Bullet Hell (*whew* that’s a lot of aka’s) have been a staple of gaming since the 70’s. My first introduction to this genre was probably Asteroids. Space Invaders was probably another gateway drug into the world of shooters for many *ahem* “veteran” gamers. Steredenn falls into the design template of a “side-scrolling” shooter. Meaning the game is played as the two-dimensional player controlled ship travels horizontally through the game world. Think R-type or Gladius if you are familiar with those game series.
First thing you must know about shooters is they are very live, die, repeat heavy. The games often require players learn level layout and boss attack patterns through trial and error. This means you die often. Steredenn is no different, except in one aspect. The levels or stages are randomly generated and the stage bosses are also random. As far as I can tell the stage bosses are randomly selected from pre-generated bosses that have their own unique attacks, weapons, and patterns. This means that each time you play the game it is different. Which is nice way of adding replayability to the game.
Your ship has its own health bar which can only be replenished by defeating a stage boss. The game has an assortment of weapons that range from amazing to rubbish. Some of the weapons are so niche that I found them more of an impediment than helpful (looking at you trap-jaw). Your ship comes standard with a fully automatic blaster that is a good all-rounder. After defeating a stage boss, several bonuses become available. You are allowed to select one which can become a very strategic decision. The bonuses can range from weapons dealing 10% more damage to giving you two extra health boxes for your ship.
Unlike many shooters there are no extra lives or continues. Once, you die you start all the way back at the beginning. Unless, you picked the extra try bonus that sometimes appears after defeating a stage boss. Shooters are notorious for being difficult and Steredenn is no different. However, that’s the fun of shooters. The genre was developed for arcades. Where, getting players to cough up coinage frequently was how a game became profitable. So, the genre was light on content comparatively; but made up for that with addictive skill-based gameplay. Staff Sergeant John “Four Leaf” Tayback remembers a time when a man’s worth was measured by the number of ears hanging from his dog tags. Well, I remember a time when a man’s worth was measured by the number of stage clears on a single quarter.
Steredenn is available on PC/Mac/Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and iOS. The iOS port came out this year and is available for $3.99 USD on the appstore. The touchscreen controls are useable but I did have some frustrating moments playing on my iPhone SE’s small screen. Playing on the iPad was a much better experience but this game did make me break down and buy a MFI controller. So, I picked up a refurbished Steelseries Stratus controller on Amazon. Playing with a controller is even better but if you don’t have one or don’t want to purchase one don’t let that stop you from picking this game up. It’s completely playable with the touchscreen controls. Especially with a bigger screen phone or tablet.
Steredenn was produced by French developer Pixelnest. For a small developer, Steredenn is such a polished game. The pixel art is both nostalgic and gorgeous. Story is virtually non-existent but again it’s a shooter they’re not known for their in-depth plots. Basically, space pirates attack and you fight back. The soundtrack by Zander Noriega is great. Unless, you hate metal. Me, I enjoy metal. So, I love the soundtrack. It fits the onscreen action perfectly. (If you are like me and collect game soundtracks, the entire seven song soundtrack is available for purchase on Zander’s bandcamp page and includes about 20 minutes of guitar shredding tunes.)