Infinitely Spawning Solider #1300FF! Report to the telebay, where your unique ability to never truly die will be put to the test in an ultra-minimalistic platform shooter. Star Guard is a classic arcade experience pitting green soldiers against red monsters, but with enough touches to keep it fresh til the end.
Much like master chief, Star Guard sees your green army man rushing into battle, blasting everything in sight, while your comrades generally flail uselessly about. Progress deeper and deeper into the citadel, though, and if you survive the increasingly difficult challenges it’ll be time to confront the evil space wizard himself (perhaps it’s the Wizard of Wor).
The game shows its retro-roots quite unashamedly. Ultra minimalistic atari-era aesthetics, with only the 8-bit sounds of your endless laser blasts to keep you company. Gameplay is a pretty stripped down arcade fare – there are no different weapons, powerups, or branching explorations to be found: it’s a pure straightforward blasting experience. However, rather than fast and frenetic, it’s relatively steady paced, and you have endless lives and unlimited ammo, so the challenge comes more from attempting to get through a level efficiently and claiming the high score. Finishing in a short time, without dying (as much), killing all the enemies, and getting the diamond are all sources of big bonuses.
There are of course, some modern touches and influences which do much to make the gameplay more lasting. There is a suitably varied menagerie of enemies, from slow hulking monsters to rhino-like beasts that rush you on sight, to typical easily killed soldiers, to mines and the ever-annoying falling stacelites. These, along with some lite platform challenges such as exploding platforms, are introduced at a steady clip which avoids the otherwise simplistic action from becoming repetitive. While all of this makes for some challenge, the game is (generally) not unforgiving by any means – levels are short, checkpoints are generously placed, and you gain a few seconds of invincibility after respawning.
Another addition is the presence of allied soldiers fighting in the halls alongside you. Although admittedly, they won’t make much dent on the enemy forces and usually just leap right into laser fire, its a nice touch that adds the feeling of an actual battle taking place and lends some atmosphere to what could have otherwise been a bland shooter. There is a story of sorts, too, which is progressed by unobtrusive floating text in the background. It’s ultimately unimportant, but the messages have increasingly darker and dire tones, which at least add some intrigue to the proceedings.
The only exception to these positive points comes in the form of the final boss, being way too difficult compared to rest of the game. He has a nasty habit of simply jumping straight into you, but his behaviour is unpredictable, and he doesn’t telegraph his moves, at all, making it all the more frustrating to avoid. Since one hit is death, you’ll have to start all over again and watch his
cool tedious unskippable appearance animation again. And again. And again. Once I did finally defeat the bastard, he adhered to the law of game bosses and reappeared in different forms – all of which I defeated in my first attempt – further re-enforcing my feeling that the first incarnation was disproportionately hard to the rest of the game.
Aside from that final frustration Star Guard was a fun experience overall, and its mix of old school gameplay with modern flourishes make it perfectly suited to the label of ‘new retro game’.
Star Citadel | Download
Unfortunately for a game so focused on old-school arcade gameplay, it doesn’t support gamepads – you can use joytokey to remedy this.