Sometimes when I pick up and play a game for the first time, I can’t help but feel a strange connection through familiar gameplay traits and aesthetics. The way a title controls, its witty dialogue, subtle storyline or lively soundtrack can all bring forth endearing memories of video games past – often a pleasant experience. But sometimes, on much more seldom occasions, those shared qualities bring about a far different feeling. In the most “been there, done that” fashion, titles with similar traits can make me feel a sense of apathy toward what I’m playing, and, unfortunately, Super Intergalactic Gang falls victim to this phenomenon.
Super Intergalactic Gang or SIG, while I would never call it a “bad” game, is one so typical to its genre that it has nothing new to offer besides a “time distort” feature that slows down the action for a brief stint. Apart from that, it’s an average side-scrolling shooter that pits one or two players against a barrage of flying enemies such as laser turtles, eyeballs and what looks like a meatball with a bad attitude. Essentially, this game is a bad acid trip mixed with Gradius.
Players use the keyboard to evade hazards and blast away bad guys with a selection of 10 weapons to get the highest score possible. The problem with the weapons is that some of them are so bad you would never want to pick them up, effectively limiting the player to about six viable options. Take the mega punch for example. It’s slow fire rate, mixed with its relatively slow travel speed, make it less desirable than the regular pistol or machine gun. The bow and arrow has a low fire rate mixed with low damage, and the death ray has an extraordinarily powerful charge shot, but a terribly weak primary shot. This is a bit discouraging at first, but is easy to work around as weapons drop often. And lets be honest, most games like this always have weapons that are more desired, so although it might get annoying to be struck with an item that completely sucks, it adds a small bit of strategy to combat. Another strategy element that SIG challenges players with is the choice given at the end of each boss fight to upgrade an aspect of their character. These upgrades range from faster gun fire to increased health. It’s a nice touch that gives a little extra oomph to either offensive or defensive play styles without making the game too easy for either.
A two-player mode is available which offers an enhanced difficulty in that the team members share a health bar. Due to a glitch in the games settings menu, however, the second player must always use a controller and the first player must always use the keyboard. While this might not be a big deal to hardcore PC players, console natives who seek the use of a controller might instead turn towards one of the many titles in this extensive genre that does support the use of a controller.
Glitchy co-op options aside, SIG biggest problem is its weak artistic design. Although controls are fluid, the action is engagingly energetic and blowing up space monsters never seems to get old, the game’s visuals do, and quite quickly I might add. Despite the fact that many side scrolling shooters can get away with weaker storylines in lieu of stronger gameplay, successful titles will often have eye-grabbing aesthetics to attract the player’s visual interest. SIG unsuccessfully uses the popular retro look which makes it boring to play for more than 30 minutes at a time. Bright colours mixed with Atari-level explosions do their best to grab and hold attention, but fall short due to an overtly bland feel created by drab character and enemy design. It might be funny to see a floating laser turtle, but when it doesn’t look particularly interesting besides being a laser turtle, there’s a problem. It’s true that graphics aren’t everything, and some games can get away with having weak visuals, however, Super Intergalactic Gang is certainly not one of those games.
Fortunately, SIG does deserve some extra praise. The game offers a fair level of difficulty for players that respond well to a challenge. Once completed, SIG also gives anyone who beat the game a boss rush mode where you can, as you might have guessed from the name, rush through only the boss fights. What I was most pleasantly surprised by though was the game’s soundtrack, which creates personality where the aesthetics could not, and seems to be the title’s crowning achievement. Fun, catchy 8-bit songs inhabit the game and seem to be an unfortunate antithesis to SIG’s boring design.
For a modest $2.99 you could own Super Intergalactic Gang, but I don’t suggest the purchase unless you’re itching for a newly released one-hour challenge confined to the use of a keyboard. Again, the action is quick and the soundtrack is on point, but beyond that you’re better off playing a longer, more established title such as R-Type, Jamestown or Ikaruga – even if it means playing it for the hundredth and sixteenth time.
A distinctly so-so shooter
Gameplay-wise it's a textbook example of a scrolling shooter but suffers from a severe case of MS Paint visuals that derails the whole experience.