Sun Blast is an arcade-style, third-person shoot ’em up that combines the forward-scrolling experience of Xevious (Atari, 1983 [US]) with the destructive tactics of R-Type (Nintendo, 1987). Add modern sound and hi-res graphics and you have Sun Blast, by Oblone Software.
The first thing you’ll do in-game is select a ship, and there are three to choose from. The first ship specializes in X-Axis control; that is, its horizontal maneuvering is very responsive, but its vertical control is weakened. The second ship is the Y-Axis specialist, focusing on vertical control at the expense of the horizontal. Then there’s the third ship (which I chose) that sports a median balance between both axes.
The game starts off fairly light. Space rocks are hurling straight at you and you must either dodge or shoot them to avoid losing shields. Some rocks turn into energy cells, which replenish your shields. If you lose all your shield energy, it’s game over. A slightly more advanced version of the rock hurl is the floating minefield. Shaped as classic spheres with spikes, mines can’t be shot…in fact your guns are offline in their presence. You must dodge, dodge, dodge.
As you advance through the levels, enemy ships will arrive; at first firing standard bullets. Soon enough, giant orange-throwing stars appear…attempting to hone in on you. Now here we take a page from a very old playbook. If you remember B.C.’s Quest for Tires (Sierra, 1983) for the Commodore 64 and ColecoVision, the idea is to be the first to flinch. If you dodge a throwing star before it hones in, it will always miss you. If you dodge after the star begins its beeline attack, it will always hit you. Destroy enemy ships before they fire, remembering to collect any dropped energy cells. This brings up an interesting side point. Occasionally your ship will get stuck…either on the side of a map or in the corner. I found this happened most often when I swooped over to collect an energy cell. It was hard to tell if this was a glitch, or simply part of the ship’s natural axis weakness. Either way, it was frustrating; the energy cell simply floated just below or above my ship in these cases.
Now let’s talk bosses. The first one looks something like a floating Lich with a massive under-bite. While he tosses rockets at you from four large turrets, your job is to dodge and fire back…not the most original concept, but well executed. The boss’s armor is tough, and it seemed for a while that he’d never succumb. I was relentless though, and eventually, he took a dive. Why a dive, I don’t know…we’re in space…there’s no gravity, but okay.
By far the best part of Sun Blast for me was the tunnels. Here you’ll encounter the same enemy ships as before, but now in tight confines. After that, giant drooling worms suddenly emerge from the walls, permitting only a small gap through which to escape. As this was all reminding me of Star Fox 64, it happened…blockades sprung out from the walls, forcing me to fly over and under to evade.
When the tunnel ordeal was over, I emerged into a peaceful green nebula where I had only to once again crush oncoming space rocks for a while. I like it when games give you a bit of a rest after a tough battle.
Overall, Sun Blast delivers what you’d expect from a genre-specific, single-player game. It’s very challenging! But if you’re in the mood to “master the axes”, you’ll surely enjoy hours with this addictive blast-fest.
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