At a first glance, Steredenn looked like a combination of Asteroid and Techno Kitten Adventure, but boy was I sure wrong! With it’s 8-bit style and side scrolling gameplay, it would be easy to look at this game, go “Eh, it’s just another ‘retro’ game.”, and continue on clicking through the millions of games on Steam. If you did that, I certainly wouldn’t blame you, but then you’d be missing out on a unique experience that you’d be hard-pressed to find again.
Disclosure: This review was written using a press copy of the game.
If I had to describe this game in two words, they’d be “fun” and “frustrating”. One key element that makes this game different from Asteroid, other than having much more than just asteroids to blowup, is that you cannot face backwards and are stuck facing forwards. While that may seem like a handicap at first, it leads to interesting gameplay. I found myself begging and searching for the homing-rocket in every play-through. This weapon will shoot in any direction towards whatever enemy is closest to you, and it is a life saver! Taking on a boss (of which there are many) without it is almost a guarantee to lose half of your health before the fight is over. Speaking of health…
You must kill a boss to regain health, that’s the only way. Now yes, ramming an enemy is a sure fire way to destroy them, but losing even a bar of precious health puts on more pressure. This adds a whole extra layer to the game when you realize “Hey! I gotta not get hit by the enemy, while dodging all the other space stuff AND make it through a tough boss battle!” Personally, it made me re-evaluate my entire strategy. I stopped running and gunning, and took my time to watch the whole screen. Mind you, I never took my finger off the fire button because of unlimited ammo and bottom-less clips.
By far the biggest element in the game is how it handles its permanent death feature. That’s right, you die, you start over. It’s simple, clean, quick, and oh god the starting level has changed. Yep, not only will you have to start over, but the game’s level generation is semi-random. When I started for the first time ever, it was slow, and had the lowest level enemies to shoot, but with each death, the game got a bit tougher. Suddenly, I’m starting off with just my blaster and having to fight lasers and chainsaw ships. I have to admit, it is a different take on the whole idea of having to start over. The game can record how many times you die, so it does and loops that info back to the difficulty setting. Sadly, it won’t give you a helping hand and take it down a notch.
The next element is the in-game music. Even the character who trains you in the tutorial mentions it. Here’s where it’s similar to Techno Kitten Adventure, with it’s pounding electronic/synthetic music. As you progress through the large, semi-continuous level, the music speeds up and gets more intense. This is done through adding more instruments and actually turning up the volume. No, it won’t turn up your computer’s volume, the song just gets louder. Some would think this would be unwanted, but it pulls you into the game and helps you focus on the space chaos unfolding before you.
Remember in the intro paragraph I said how this game would be easy to passover? Well I believe the game creators realized this too. Granted the newest patch for this game came out June 6th of this year, a little under year since the game was released in 2015, and the bulk of the very positive reviews on their Steam page, I believe the creators knew it wouldn’t be a big name title. That’s not to say they didn’t try their hardest, again, they just released a patch, but rather, they knew who would be playing their game. Those players would be fans of the space and sci-fi genre. I bet you’re looking at this and saying something like “Well, no duh.”, well yeah, no duh, but they added bits and pieces to the game to give it some flavor. When facing a boss ship, a one-liner of flavor text will pop up under their name, and they are always random and different. The one that really caught my eye was “Space Cowboy” in reference to the 2001 anime Cowboy Bebop. As a big fan of that anime, this made me chuckle and want to play more to see what other little nods they put in their game.
Now it can’t be all sunshine and lollipops, this game does have a few issues. The first that came as a slap in the face to me was my “one more chance to achieve” upgrade not working. It said that I’d have another chance after death, great, that’s what I need, just a single extra life! About a minute or two later, I died and my sip blew up. Wait, what’s this, the beginning?? I’ve been duped! I knew I should have take the extra damage or the shield! Next time however, I took the rocket power up, and that made them one-shot practically everything.
If you’re looking to get a copy for yourself, it’s available on Steam for the PC, Mac, and Steamplay. Normally, it sits at $12.99, but as of right now, it’s 35% off due to the Summer Sale coming it at $8.44.
Finally, to me, this game was fun, but again difficult. The lack of ability to turn around and fire at enemies that were behind me really took away from the experience. They were able to take pot-shots at me when I couldn’t do anything to them, unless I had the godly homing-rockets.