Like most genres, the shoot ’em up genre has had to innovate and evolve in order to survive over the years. While the classics can still be found in arcades and retro compilations, more complex shooters have moved into the spotlight. Whether it be the plot-driven action of Velocity 2X or the online-influenced DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours, fresh takes on the genre are there for those interested. However, if you prefer the old-school thrills provided by the likes of R-Type or Gradius, Xona Games has you covered. Score Rush Extended has arrived on the PlayStation 4, and brings with it classic gameplay that is right up old-school gamer’s alley.
Eschewing plot, or even a proper single-player campaign, Score Rush Extended is about surviving and scoring. The title comes with two standard modes, Score Rush and Boss Rush. As the name implies, Score Rush is centered around surviving as many waves of enemies and bosses as possible. Likewise, Boss Rush does away with the breaks inbetween boss battles that Score Rush offers, and instead throws one after another at you.
The streamlined approach is also seen in how the game plays. Rather than giving players combos to memorize or different ships to worry about flying, Xona Games has you use a single ship with only the ability to shoot and fire bombs. Movement of your ship is mapped to the left analog stick, while the right analog stick fires your main weapon. R1 and R2 are also used, with the former allowing you to slow down the movement of the ship, and the latter used for deploying bombs. The uncomplicated controls let you focus on other aspects of the game, such as bobbing and weaving through bullet-hell.
As one would expect from the genre, Score Rush Extended is pretty damn difficult. Even on normal mode, which is the easiest setting, I was dealing with screen-filling madness and eye-straining dodging. It doesn’t help that the game rarely gives you extra credits or bombs during your run. Most of the time you’re left with three lives and three bombs in order to survive. Thankfully, there are power-ups given out that not only increase the power of your weapon, but also give you additional tiny crafts to help. You’re still going to die and fail a lot, but you’re not entirely helpless.
For those that somehow find the base game too easy, then perhaps the Dual Play option is more your speed. Instead of controlling one ship, you’ll now have to control two ships side-by-side. While the additional firepower is helpful, you still only have a limited amount of lives between the two ships. I appreciate that this option is here, as it’s neat to test out just how sharp your skills are, but I largely avoided it. I already have trouble following one ship through all of this chaos, let alone trying to keep track of a secondary vehicle.
Likewise, I found the chaos of the added multiplayer mode equally tough to follow. Up to four players can take part in the bullet-hell action of Score Rush Extended if you can find some dance partners. I was only able to grab one other player to join in, as I only have two controllers, but already I was finding it hard to keep up. It’s easy to recognize which ship belongs to which player, but between your bullets and the enemies’ bullets, the screen can be incomprehensible at times. I applaud those that can accurately follow the action, but I think I’ll stick to the single-player, thank you very much.
Since I started playing Score Rush Extended last week, I’ve been trying to decide whether or not it is a good starting point for those that are new to the shoot ’em up genre. On the one hand, the no-frills gameplay allows newcomers to learn the basics of bullet-hell, while also helping to develop their skills without overwhelming them. On the other hand, the lack of help in either mode could lead to many players dying before they even make it past the first boss. There are less difficult options out there, but none as easy to learn, if that makes sense.
Visually, the game doesn’t have much flair. The player-controlled ship is rather dull to look at, and the enemy ships aren’t much better. Same goes for the background, which is the same static black screen throughout. Would it have killed someone to give me a generic city or sky to fly over? I understand that most of the screen is taken up with colorful bullets and blasts, but the lack of any kind of visual detail is noticeable. At least the rocking score provided by Dragon Music is there to give a boost to the otherwise lacking aesthetic department.
Score Rush Extended is very much a case of what you see is what you get. Either you’re interested in the back to basics bullet-hell action, or you’re not particularly interested in the genre to begin with. As a fan of shoot ’em ups, though, I enjoyed the time I spent with Xona Games’ throwback effort, even if I am getting my ass kicked. While the visuals are lacking, the thrilling action more than makes up for it. It’s the type of game that rarely goes out of style, and one that I can see myself hopping back into time and time again in order to further work on my skills.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
By doing away with the trappings of modern bullet-hell shooters, Score Rush Extended is able to deliver a tight shoot 'em up that rewards focus and skill over help and luck.