Star Guard Review

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I recently found this exciting little action platformer called Star Guard, a game by independent developer Vacuum Flowers that drops the player into the centre of a struggle between the Green Men and the horrid laser/rhino/demons that are being unleashed upon a civilisation on Venus, where you, Ace Pixel as I have named him must battle your way through the remains of the city and into the catacombs beneath where you must confront the wizard and wrought his demise.

The game is very simple, Z to jump, X to shoot and the arrow buttons to move from side to side. This may seem incredibly simple, but the game has been so well composed that this minimalist control scheme is a satisfying interface between the player and the game. The way the game is constructed is through a series of rooms where Ace Pixel must travel downwards, overcoming all manner of instadeath traps and armed bad guys, but what makes this special is the way it is delivered.
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Most games of this variety are pretty ordinary, although they may be fundamentally good in regards to technical composition; they may lack the touches that defines a developer’s skill and care for the project. Death is handled in an interesting way throughout the game, all deaths in the first playthrough are forgiven by a checkpoint respawn which are spaced in such a way that the player doesn’t have to retread cleared terrain. This ties in nicely with the story delivery to create a smooth and flowing experience that isn’t interrupted by game over’s that require the player to start again to uncover the enigma surrounding this universe.
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The way the story is told is through text that appears in certain parts of the level, this is delivered in a way that feels as if Ace’s actions are being narrated whilst the back story is being simultaneously delivered without becoming obtrusive or distracting. This lends a real cinematic feel to the game which is a nice change from having the story fed to the player at the start to only have them forget, and in turn the story looses meaning all together; and since you cannot get a game over, the story telling process is very linear and well delivered in the style of a short story, and If the play session is broken, it can be resumed via a level select screen, allowing the player to continue the games natural progression and experience the events that unfold at the end of the game without having to replay the entire process.
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Levels are handled in a fairly traditional way, starting you off in the preparatory antechamber where you get a feel for the character and the levels, progressing further into more difficult situations. The difficulty curve is well balanced since every challenge is introduced before a level where it is used extensively, ranging from stronger enemies to all manner of crazy laser death traps up until the crescendo, that’s when the rules change…
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Once the story mode is completed, you can play through again with all the rigours of a classic arcade game by pressing tab on the start screen, giving Ace only 4 lives to finish the game, giving the hardest of core arcade gamers a time to shine.

I highly recommend this game, it’s free, it’s simple and most importantly it is fun. Star Guard is available on Vacuum Flowers’s website

Miles Newton – The Machination, Creative Director, Editor in Chimp

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