Scoregasm scares me. It’s not a horror game, nor does it have anything remotely scary within it, but it scares me because it knows me. It knew me and it knew what I wanted before I even started. Scoregasm will know you too; it will know that as a gamer there is a voice within the realms of your conscience that wants more numbers, more lasers and more flashy things. Once I learned that it was better to accept the fact rather than try to dispute it, I really started to enjoy myself.
The word ‘Scoregasm’ goes a long way itself towards explaining why this little indie shooter is so fun. You pilot a little spacecraft within the confines of a small, abstractly designed level while wave upon wave of enemies spawn and fly towards you and all you have to do is kill every one of them. It’s a delightfully simple concept, but it’s the way you go about killing these enemies that gives Scoregasm its name as well as what makes it so fun. The simple pleasure of mowing down dozens of enemies per second with your triple laser beam is highly rewarding, even if it is an extremely common occurrence.
In fact, I enjoy the scoring so much that it’s my favourite thing about Scoregasm. While playing through any level, you have a combo counter in the top right corner of the screen. If you can keep that going through the whole level and reach one of the target scores then you’re treated to a bonus. Well, actually, ‘a bonus’ just means ‘the game going absolutely batshit insane all over your senses’. Enemies spawn ten times faster, the background starts to pulse violently with colour, the sound effects start to resemble a casino slot machine making a jackpot payout. Frankly, it’s impossible to fully convey how mental it becomes on screen through the use of mere words, so I’m also going to show you. Here’s a brief video I uploaded to showcase one level as well as exactly what happens when you reach the bonus stage. Fraps, my recording program, does slow the game down while recording but the video still conveys my favourite Scoregasm asset more than adequately.
Hopefully that short clip as well as the screenshots I’ve selected while playing have also started to tell you about the diversity of content you can find within Scoregasm. It may be a space shooter and, for many, that means several levels filled with pretty much the same thing, punctuated by the occasional boss fight which in similar genred games (Beat Hazard and Geometry Wars for example), this is the case, with minor differences between different modes in each of them. In Scoregasm, however, the amount of depth is amazing in comparison.
If you get a decent grade at the end of any level you unlock a challenge mode for that stage, which is normally completely different to the ‘shoot anything that moves’ mentality. A favourite challenge mode was playing a mock-up of Space Invaders where your ship can only move horizontally along the bottom of the stage, as enemies slowly descend towards you. The catch is that you have to use your close range pulse attack to propel a spinning sawblade at them, because you can’t use your lasers and, of course, if the sawblade ever touches you or the bottom of the stage, you die. It’s great fun and is indicative of some of the other utterly mental challenges that are available.
But even while playing the regular stages it’s obvious that so much thought and imagination has gone into the level design. There’s tons of different types of enemies, boss monsters (one of which was a giant flower that shoots petals), hazards and quirks available. In one level you might have to dodge a giant turret shooting flames at you, whereas in another you might have to fly between lines of electricity while trying to destroy the battery that powers them. It was impossible for me not to enjoy myself while playing Scoregasm because I was always finding something new to go along with the simple pleasures that are thrown at you by the frenzied bonus sections. It’s also worth mentioning that despite all these distractions on screen, I rarely lost track of where I was or where the enemies were, which would have been an easy complaint to make with a game as flamboyantly vibrant as this.
Scoregasm is one of the best indie titles I’ve played this year, along with the likes of SpaceChem, which I reviewed in January. What both of these games have in common is how well they pull off the simple things without relying on a glut of new features to keep them entertaining. SpaceChem is a puzzle game, therefore it puzzles you and when you figure out each solution you feel like a genius. Scoregasm is a space shooter, so it gives you lasers, spaceships and high scores. The level design may make it seem more complicated than it should be, but instead it adds layer upon layer of depth to what would have been a pretty good game without it. I’m not complaining – in fact, I relish the chance of playing Scoregasm more as it nears its full release, because I’m going to be chasing high scores for a long time.