Blasters of The Universe (EU) Reviews

AuthorReview
Slam-Shot-Sam
73,521 (48,660)
Slam-Shot-Sam
TT Score for this game: 527
Posted on 01 March 18 at 18:16, Edited on 24 March 18 at 00:30
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Blasters of the Universe | PS VR | Review

As its He-Man and the Masters of the Universe-inspired name and neon vision of the future suggest, Blasters of the Universe is a humorous homage to the VHS era. Grandmaster Alwyn, an arcade gaming savant, is so dominant a player that he’s become one with the eponymous game, prompting you to challenge his throne across four levels of intense shoot-‘em-up action.

While you may have already played a dozen wave-based VR shooters if you’ve owned a headset for any period of time, Blasters puts a spin on things that serves to separate it from the crowd. By tapping into the bullet hell subgenre, which tasks players with avoiding increasingly complex patterns of incoming projectiles to stay alive, the game takes on both a fierce urgency and an enticing element of performance.

Rather than moving a 2D, top-down sprite around the screen in typical bullet hell fashion, players adopt a first-person perspective and need to physically dodge a range of enemy weapon fire. Your head serves as your hitbox and is, as such, all you need to worry about protecting; this might lead you to counterintuitively lean towards danger in order to squeeze your noggin through the narrow space between a net of bullets, or, less elegantly, throw yourself on the floor to nip under an intimidating barrage.

My legs are burning as I sit typing this (and even now as I sit publishing this) from the (quite literally) hundreds of squats I’ve performed whilst playing Blasters of the Universe, so do be aware that you’re in for a real workout, whether that’s appealing or not. Casual mode extends a helping hand to those less mobile or with small play spaces, but at the same time somewhat negates the well-tuned challenge that works with the inherent thrill of watching projectiles sail by your face to make Blasters compelling at a base level.

Unfortunately, on whichever difficulty setting you play, the realities of cable management that go hand-in-hand with playing VR standing (and that’s pretty much a necessity with Blasters) can pull you out of the experience. Whether you’re tripping over the PlayStation VR power cable or getting tangled in your headphones’ wire, not being able to pause the game whilst you reconfigure can lead to an untimely death or two. There’s already so much to juggle in-game that a real-world distraction is totally unwelcome, but it’s hard to really hold a grudge when the hardware, and not the developer, is mostly at blame.

By tapping into the bullet hell subgenre, the game takes on both a fierce urgency and an enticing element of performance.
This cumbersome issue isn’t something the pulsing synth soundtrack and sharp presentation can’t remedy, the pair drawing you back for another hit in tandem, but perhaps not before altering your loadout. Guns are crafted by choosing a frame and associated special ability, barrel, magazine, ammo type, and a module that provides a passive buff. A lot of possibilities open up as you progress and unlock new weapon elements, allowing you to rock an arcing beam rifle, explosive shotgun, ricocheting assault rifle, or really whatever you can dream up to fit your play style.

The game can only be played with two Move motion controllers (which are tracked particularly well here), one corresponding to your bespoke gun and the other being used to deploy your choice of ammo clips and a limited-use shield. This opens up a further layer of customisation, allowing you to, for example, equip a recharging magazine and focus exclusively on shielding with your off hand, or a small magazine with increased damage output that’ll need reloading on the regular, but should, in theory, eradicate enemies before they ever give you reason to deploy your shield.

If you’re anything like us, bigger will be better when it comes to the magazine, as the manual reload process is quite particular and differs depending on your choice of frame. Such is the precise art of reloading that we’d actually recommend using your dominant hand for it.

A lot of weapon crafting possibilities open up as you progress, really allowing you to rock whatever gun you can dream up to fit your play style.
Though swapping hands can initially prove disorienting, it ultimately lead us to slay all of the game’s long-form, large-scale bosses and emerge victorious on the other side. These battles require specific aiming and avoidance techniques that make them a challenging treat, though a glitch we encountered whereby each loss to the final boss caused an obnoxious buzzing sound until the game was rebooted did make the final leg slightly laborious. Fingers crossed that bug is squashed, which seems likely enough judging by the patch support already offered since launch.

Completing the campaign should take around three to five hours, though the exact number is really dependant on player skill and fitness levels, and that’s without taking into account time spent climbing online leaderboards and interacting with a couple of additional modes that round the package out. Challenge mode hands you a pre-built loadout and an objective to complete as quickly as possible, with the task at hand rotating after a set period of time, whilst Endless mode sees you, shockingly, survive for as long as possible to gain the highest score before meeting an inevitable end.

​Despite relying on a played out concept, Endless is a highlight, placing trophies just out of reach to encourage a ‘one more go’ mindset. It randomises spawn patterns with each attempt to keep things fresh, though this does also affect balance, as luck of the draw can vastly impact your performance.

Still, with this mode in its repertoire, Blasters of the Universe might actually prove endlessly entertaining. Its thoroughly rewarding combat encounters can’t be bested with a lackadaisical approach, resulting in not just a fantastically fresh take on the bullet hell shooter, but also a workout regimen that makes you feel like a virtual deity... until your humanity comes a-knockin’ and the lactic acid takes hold.

Pros

+ A unique take on the staple VR shooter
+ Intensely challenging without feeling unfair
+ Smooth-as-butter motion tracking
+ Wide range of loadout customisation options
+ Longevity for your money

Cons

- No pause function for when cables become a hindrance
- Reloading can feel finicky

8/10

Trophies

Blasters' trophies won't come quick and they won't come easy. Just don't let that put you off - it's a fun game that can be dipped in and out of over time, as you gradually get better, fitter, and closer towards completion.

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Originally written for Pass the Controller, a digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.

You can check out my Xbox One reviews over at TrueAchievements.

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