I thought a turn-based shoot-em-up doesn’t sound quite right. Side scrolling bullet hell shooters are built around a mix of reflexes and learning patterns, so adding in a turn-based system just wouldn’t mesh with that. I have been proven wrong with the preview of Mighty Tactical Shooter at EGX Rezzed.
Those of you who might have paid close attention to EGX Rezzed last year, or visited The Gadget Show Live, or are even just avid fans of scouring Kickstarter regularly might have heard of this game before. Mighty Tactical Shooter is a side scrolling shoot ‘em up with a set of unique features. As I mentioned, the game is turn based: you give the ship commands and set them off, allowing both the ship and the enemies to perform their actions in real time. This process then repeats throughout the level. As the ship is upgraded, new weapons will become available. This is where the game gets really interesting.
A range of different variants on the regular ship’s shots are pretty standard, however early on you acquire the ability to create gravity wells which quickly shake up the combat. By placing these gravity wells, enemies can be moved around and their shots can be moved around. This creates for some interesting puzzle mechanics: one boss early on is easy to kill with correct use of the gravity well, nigh impossible without. The addition of missiles that can be aimed and moved independently of the ship create further opportunities for interesting design, such as a monster that is susceptible to being hit from behind.
The game’s mechanics are further complicated by the buddy system. The ship has three buddies: shield buddy, gun buddy, and power buddy. By changing the power buddy’s position on the screen, either the shield buddy or gun buddy will get more power. Need to block a barrage of shots you can’t avoid? Power up the shield buddy! Need to waste a few enemies? Power up the gun buddy! Of course, giving one buddy more power than the other will result in the latter not liking you too much which then ties in to the game’s fantastic sense of humour.
Throughout the levels, the buddies will make short quips and jokes at you. For example, in my playthrough, I was just staying in place a lot towards the end, so one buddy asked “Are you just going to keep doing that?”. After speaking to the developer, these comments on how you’re playing should be a regular thing, albeit swapping around regularly so it’s not the same quote over and over again. I imagine it’s something along the lines of the narrator in Bastion commenting with lines like “The Kid made it out without a scratch”, although I’d have to play more to find out how good it really is. It’s certainly promising. If the shield buddy says “I just can’t do it Captain, I just don’t have the power” I will be very impressed indeed.
The enemy and level designs are great, with them all being original (especially the bosses) and rather horrible. It’s easy to just make a generic alien creature, some humanoid green thing, but the artist behind Mighty Tactical Shooter has come up with some really original designs.
Mighty Tactical Shooter doesn’t just end its innovation in the gameplay: with specific missions in each level, you’ll have to go back and repeat levels once you have the right gear to gain materials to upgrade your ship. Introducing this progression both allows for interesting missions to be given (such as defeat a boss in 0.5 seconds) and can force variety into your playstyle. Rather than allowing you to replay levels just for score, it gives a real reward for going back.
The game is chock-full of features you might miss at first glance, it has tiny details that help to glue everything together. From the buddy’s funny quotes, to allowing the player to watch the level as if it was played in real-time, to a personalised story, Might Tactical Shooter doesn’t skimp out on the unnecessary but great features. Many games might leave out a small feature like a personalised story, deeming it to be a use of resources that could be put somewhere else. Might Tactical Shooter recognises that it’s these features which can make a game stand out, and it’s fantastic.
I don’t play all that many shoot-em-ups. My reactions are too bad, and I can’t remember the patterns very well. Mighty Tactical Shooter has taken the genre into its own direction, applying solid new mechanics alongside a great art style and soundtrack. I’ve never been excited for a shoot-em-up before, now I am.