Freeware Game Pick – ‘Faster Blaster’
Kudos to the sagely Pixel Prospector for spotting this one. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the past decade of gaming, it’s that physics make everything better. From the earliest, wobbliest ragdoll death animations to splooshy fluid dynamics and even just small details like sparks from impacts skittering across the floor. I’ve also learnt that retro mash-ups are rad. Frank Force’s Faster Blaster (formerly known as Mother Lover) is doubleplus extra badical, for these reasons. Take one part Metroid, one part Blaster Master and 9.8g’s of physics, shake (not stir) and serve on the rocks.
There’s no plot to speak of here, but let’s just assume that the miraculous super-tank Sophia The 3rd got lost (should’a taken that left turn at Albuquerque) and ended up on Planet Zebes and decided to explore a little and maybe kill Mother Brain. Also, physics. I don’t really know how to explain the lack of abstract 8-bit movement, but let’s not think too hard about that. Faster Blaster is still officially in development, but the current beta build is largely feature-complete and well worth playing. What you’ve got here is a great big non-linear game-world filled with critters to shoot, platforms to jump on and secrets to find. Metroid, really. But with a tank. And physics.
You’ve also got a lot more to master, controls-wise. Clearing larger jumps is a matter of building up speed and ramping off ledges, and landing needs to be controlled with your brakes or you can end up overshooting the mark. You have semi-limited ammo for your main gun, too. It continually recharges, and the first shot has a little extra kick to it, but every shell launches in an arc affected by your momentum. Later, you get your standard range of Metroid-style upgrades, from basic health extensions to extra weapons. The classic Metroid missile launcher has been upgraded to a manually guided fly-by-wire design, and there’s an even more physics-oriented ‘digger’ gun to excavate your way into new caverns.
The concept is solid for the most part, although controlling your tank takes some time to master, especially given the floaty (jet-assisted?) jumping, and just how easy it is to snag yourself on the corner of a platform and bounce helplessly off. Still, for every moment of frustration there’s one of equal satisfaction. Nailing a fast-moving flying enemy by accelerating your own shot through movement is strangely reminiscent of Starsiege: Tribes. While the game boasts full analogue gamepad support, it’s probably best to use mouse and keyboard. The extra precision with aiming matters when your ammo is semi-limited and that first shot counts more than the rest.
Faster Blaster is available (in beta) now, weighs in at a tiny 8mb download, and should run on just about any PC from the past six years. The engine the game runs on seems smooth and well-optimized, although that shouldn’t be too surprising, given the retro nature of it all.
Now here’s a question for you eagle-brained (and presumably elephant-eyed) folks in the community: Are there any other retro + physics mash-ups that you can think of? Mario-Portal blend MariO springs to mind, but are there any other notable hybrids that we might have missed? Feel free to share, comment, heckle or otherwise make noise in the comments box below.