Super Star Path is an interesting 2D retro shooter that mixes two gameplay genres to blend a new experience. Using retro pixel art graphics, the game pays homage to the old arcade science fiction shooters of the past that likely inspired many aspects of it, including monster design, ship design, music, combat, and the main character himself, who is referred to as the greatest pilot humanity has to offer.
Super Star Path initially feels like most top-down, two-dimensional shooters, automatically scrolling up vertically and firing to destroy the enemies that block the path and endanger the ship. The game offers six planets as levels, with an extra planet available at the end offering a final battle. The easiest way to define the unique gameplay of each level is to split it into almost two different games, requiring different play styles. Upon beginning the game, the player must shoot through a crowded level of different colored enemy aliens, which stands in stark contrast to the standard for the genre.
Every destroyed alien causes one of two important chain reactions, depending on whether any of the adjacent aliens are the same type and color as the original alien that was just blasted apart. If none of the adjacent aliens match, they suddenly crystalize and become indestructible, effectively blocking the path of the fighter. This can lead to an instant death if there’s no way to go around. However, if at least one of the adjacent aliens matches, the explosion causes a chain reaction that destroys all matching aliens that are next to one another, with the last exploding alien crystalizing any non-matching enemies. Players need to choose their shots carefully when firing into these scenarios as they strive to clear the path ahead, and navigate through the entire level to reach the boss at the end.
Boss battles are more akin to the standard form of 2D shooters, challenging players with bullets that fill the screen and a flurry of oncoming miniature enemies. Quick pattern memorization is often the key to victory. If that proves difficult, Super Star Path has other features and elements that offer a few limited advantages to players.
Visually, each planet differs only slightly, switching from destructible asteroids, to more fortified walls, cannons, mines, and automated flamethrowers. Beyond this, the levels use the same kinds of enemies, including individual creatures that provide a reward for their destruction. Specifically, there are three black alien enemies in a level that each hold a green emerald, a necessary reward for completing the game.
There are also three other enemies, colored blue, red, and green. Each of these enemies drops an upgrade icon (defense, attack, and speed respectively) which can be used to increase the power of a specific ship before selecting a level to challenge. This adds an element of strategy to the game, as having limited upgrades means players must be careful when choosing which ship to upgrade, and how. Players start with one ship, with another available for purchase using gems dropped by destroyed enemies. For every level the player beats, another two ships are unlocked and available for purchase, each with different stats and a unique ability that makes them invaluable for certain levels; for instance, some ships can ignore small bullets, explosions, or flamethrowers.
Utilizing pixel art in order to portray enemies, ships, and effects, Super Star Path feels like an old arcade game with the smooth processing speed of today’s technology. Similarly, the soundtrack follows this minimalist style, creating ambient music that fits with the retro theme. The combat and boss encounter music is exciting, but also cool and calm. The melodies are reminiscent of military shooter background music, similar to games like Ace Combat, enhancing the fast-paced mood of the boss battles as well as the thoughtful melodies that follow as the player navigates through the enemy horde.
Super Star Path‘s story, while nothing new or in depth, does feel like a light parody in some ways. Humanity has reached the stars thanks to the awesome power of Green Emeralds, which are then suddenly stolen away by aliens. It’s entertaining, to say the least.
The game’s greatest weakness is the length of gameplay it has to offer, or rather, lack thereof. With only 5 planets/levels, and a hidden final boss battle, the game doesn’t have much to offer to keep players entranced for very long. Even with the boss rush mode that is available upon completing the game, there isn’t enough offered to bring more than a few extra hours of gameplay, depending on how much patience they have in memorizing the attack strategies of each boss.
Though you may not expect it, I find Super Star Path to be quite innovative in its approach to incorporate two widely different play styles within the same genre. Instead of forcefully fusing the two styles together, the game follows a simpler and more interesting tiered form of gameplay that requires players to switch gears as soon as they finish with the initial puzzler elements and reach the boss battle.
In my opinion, more could have been done with this style to enhance the gameplay; perhaps by creating more than one battle for the boss fights, separated by the puzzle elements. The drawback is in the fact that players who are used to one style or the other may have a hard time switching quickly or effectively in order to deal with the suddenly aggressive boss fight, or the subtly complicated maneuvers within the initial puzzle stages.
Super Star Path is currently available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops at the bargain rate of $2.99. While the game is short and doesn’t have as much to offer as I would prefer, the price is more than worth the purchase of the game as compared to the amount of gameplay it can provide. I recommend it wholeheartedly to fans of the 2D shooter genre, or to those developers looking for an interesting way to make shooters fresh and interesting. To learn more about Super Star Path or any other project created by DYA Games, be sure to follow the team on Twitter and like their Facebook page.