Title   ARMED SEVEN - Review
Developer  ASTRO PORT
Publisher  Nyu Media
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Shooter, Arcade
Release Date  March 6, 2015

ARMED SEVEN, a game developed by Astro Port, puts you in the cockpit of a small robot warrior as you fight wave after wave of enemies in a side-scrolling arcade-style shoot-em-up that made games like R-Type and Resogun famous. Unfortunately I highly doubt that ARMED SEVEN is set to follow the same path as the aforementioned titles.

There is literally no story offered to you (unless you read the Steam synopsis), apart from an opening cutscene that tells you it is 1989 and that it is after the ‘Gogoh War’, whatever the hell that was. There is another ten-second cutscene in the middle of the game that shows a rocket launching and a bunch of little robots heading to a planet. I can’t tell you if it’s the planet I’m on or a different planet, and while you can argue that story isn’t always an important aspect of this genre, I can tell you with some certainty that if you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a back story, it’s probably useful to actually put it in the final product.

If the story in this genre isn’t required in order to keep you hooked, what is? Well it’s usually the fast and intense gameplay that pushes the limits of human reactions and timing in order to succeed and finish the game. Once you’ve navigated the tricky menu (tricky because the only key mapped as ‘enter’ is the ‘Z’ key, and I only found that out after several minutes of trial and error), you have four difficulty settings to choose from – easy, normal, hard, and insane; and once selected you can move to the weapon loadout section. You have three slots to fill and four weapons to choose from. The first is your standard weapon, with assault rifles, lasers, and shotguns at your disposal. The second slot is a weapon that will fire automatically alongside your first one and consists of missile and grenade launchers. The final slot is your most powerful weapon, which requires charging before it can fire, and your options here vary between homing missiles, napalm, and a powerful lance attack. Although all twelve weapons on offer are just rehashes of things you’ve seen before, there is a decent variety, allowing some customisation of your robot.

The game then starts and you’ve got seven stages of shooting and dodging to get through. You can get power and shield boosters along the way to aid you in your efforts to destroy everything on screen, but other than that all that you need to do is keep your finger held down on the ‘Z’ key, launch the special weapon whenever it has charged (there is no uses-per-level limit) and wait for the boss fight. The boss fight will come and require you to destroy it within a time limit – which I never failed to do – and you get a points tally at the end of the level. Rinse and repeat seven times and you’ve completed the game. I’d love to tell you that it was incredibly difficult and felt very rewarding to get to the end, but the truth is that I never felt any real sense of challenge. Even when I died and got sent back to the start of the game, I there was no inclination to start again. The gameplay does what it says on the tin, it is – intentionally or not – like a dictionary definition of what the genre is: no frills, no extras, and just a basic example of the side-scrolling shooter.

The graphics do not fair much better either, with the whole thing looking very reminiscent of SNES-era gaming. The style and aesthetic reminded me of the little-known SNES game X-Kaliber 2097 (look that stuff up, kids, it was fucking glorious), and therefore wasn’t impressing me much on my PC. There are no options for optimising graphics or screen resolution, other than the game asking me (in capital letters, no less) do I want to ‘GO FULL SCREEN?’ Why no, no I do not. Aside from that, there is very little to talk about graphically other than if you’re a fan of retro gaming, you may enjoy it but, as with the gameplay, it’s basic. It isn’t doing anything you haven’t seen before.

The same can be said (and heard) of the sound, which at least does mix it up on different levels. The music themes become background noise very quickly and, owing to the focus you’ll have on not getting shot down by something, you’ll not really have the opportunity to enjoy it. It’s pretty inoffensive but it’s, again, very plain, very by the numbers, and very much what you would expect from a title such as this.

In terms of replayability, I tried the game on normal to begin with and got through four of its seven stages in around fifteen minutes. I switched to easy and completed the whole game in half an hour. With that done, there was very little reason to go back other than to earn emblems for completing at higher difficulties and with different weapon loadouts, which didn’t really interest me. So, depending on your skill with this genre and the current asking price on Steam, you’re looking at four pounds for thirty minutes of entertainment.  Not a great investment in my opinion but alas, if you’re a fan of the genre this could be what you’re after.

  • An array of weapons on offer
  • Gameplay is basic but works and does provide a challenge on higher difficulties.
  • Where's my story!?
  • It's all so very, very basic.
  • Boring gameplay
  • Bland music

With video games I tend to believe in the following mantra: when they're good, they can be very good, but when they're bad, they tend to be fucking dreadful. ARMED SEVEN isn't dreadful, but it certainly isn't good. It is average - an average game with by-the-numbers gameplay which takes no risk and tries nothing you haven't seen before. I can't tell you not to buy it, because it works and it's okay, as long as you like the genre or if you're happy dropping four pounds for thirty minutes of entertainment. But if you're none of the above then you're going to find very little to convince you to part with your cash. So unless your enjoy the mundane, I'd keep ARMED SEVEN as a memory of something that wasn't bad but certainly wasn't good either.

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