I’ll admit I’m not experienced in the ways of 2-D side-scrolling MMO shoot-em-ups, so it was a learning experience for me to play StarBreak.
Developed by CrunchyGames, this free-to-play title has a lot to offer with its fast-paced, take-no-prisoners, permadeath gameplay.
In the beginning, you start off as the first level shell, one of four that are currently available. As you run through what looks like a space station of sorts being destroyed, you are slowly taught the controls: arrow keys move the shell, “D” shoots, “A” picks up loot, “space bar” jumps, and “tab” opens up your menu. There’s also the option to talk to other players by using the “enter” button. Jumping and shooting my way through the level, I found I picked up the controls with relative ease, although it did seem like keyboard controls were more of an afterthought than what it was programmed for (I’m assuming there’s a controls preference on a controller).
Being in space and all, the enemies are, naturally, aliens. In the tutorial, they can shoot what appears to be fire out at you, but one jump will dodge that with no problems whatsoever. As the game progresses, the enemies become more and more challenging - almost to the point of insanity. Annihilating them showers you with loot - usually money, ammo, weapons, etc. That’s...that’s about it: lather rinse repeat. The entire point of the game is jump, shoot, kill, loot (in no particular order).
So is it any fun?
My experience was honestly a little perplexing. I feel like I’ve played plenty of games like this before while simultaneously feel like I was subjected to a completely new experience.
StarBreak does not mollycoddle - after that one tutorial, you’re on your own, fighting aliens side by side with hordes of other players. It can be brutal (I died within a few screens) and it can be frustrating (the controls aren’t the best), but it’s surprisingly fairly enjoyable. There’s something so satisfying about playing the entire side-scrolling game together; it was nice to see a plethora of players to help me take down the baddies. I really enjoyed being part of the pack, as I just wanted to see where everyone was going and be a part of the team. Following those players into battle can even be rewarding; I would watch as some players would take the right in the fork in a road while everyone else went left. I followed those on the right and they lead me to a treasure chest. Score!
I loved the music (AAA-standard music, really), and I think the stylized art was well done despite the fact that it’s not to my taste. Sound effects were also well done, and everything just seemed to blend together perfectly in these regards. There were many different backgrounds and environments that appeared to be hand-drawn, which is very impressive and added to the overall value of the title.
Leveling up is a bit tricky, and this is where permadeath comes in. Once you die, you’re gone. Dead. Done. Your loot you’ve acquired? Buh-bye now. Those stats? Sayonara, sucker. You are still able to play, however - you become a little ball of blue fire that can teleport “home” and take on another shell. Until you unlock higher level shells, you’re stuck with the basic shell that wields a shotgun. Other shells are more suited for speed, strength, or are just overall better.
After playing (and dying) for a good 90 minutes, I decided I was really not understanding the overall feel of this game yet, so I went to the “hub” and asked other people what they thought of it. Speaking with Jinx, Damacles, and LordTorstein (usernames, in case you couldn’t tell), I got a better feel for the game by people that legitimately wanted to be there. They all rated it around 8 - 9 and had a lot of praise for it. “Think of it as MegaContraManZero with a social element and temporary progression” LordTorstein offered. With the praise came ideas to make the game better. “More shells and color palettes for the shells” suggested Damacles. “More hats”, joked Jinx, an actual dev for the game. Comments and criticism aside, all agreed that they found StarBreak extremely enjoyable and wished more people would give it a shot.
StarBreak is a pretty decent game - one I can see a lot of people enjoying for hours on end. The pick-up-and-play pack-like elements are pretty unique - something Jinx, Damacles, and LordTorstein pointed out - and provide a lot of amusement for literally no cost. If you have a few hours to kill, I recommend trying StarBreak out - what do you have to lose?