There’s something to be said for simplicity. It’s always true for bagels, often true for pizza, and sometimes true for video games. But sometimes not. Take the arcadey twin-stick shooter Blue Rider (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC). While it’s a fun as is, it’s not hard to think it would be better if it had a few more options.
Made by Argentina’s Ravegan, Blue Rider puts you in command of a futuristic V-Tol that’s armed with both laser cannons and bombs. Played from an aerial perspective, you fly through largely linear levels where open battlefields are connected by narrow passageways, shooting soldiers, stationary cannons, and other targets of opportunity.
As you progress through the levels, you’ll grab power-ups that will replenish your bombs and your health, or upgrade your weapons so they shoot faster or in a spread. There are even some hidden things to blow up, which pay off with helpful rewards.
It also helps that your enemies in Blue Rider aren’t pushovers or scaredy cats. Not only do they take numerous shots to destroy, but they’re also so determined to destroy you that, if you let them, they’ll chase you all around the level. Which would take a while — they don’t move very fast, and certainly not as fast you — but they’d still do it.
Blue Rider also has a cool, old school look about it. Especially when you get to the first boss, who’s like a mech from Titanfall 2 if that game was made by in the ’80s by someone who loves ’50s sci-fi movies.
And it all works as well as it does because Blue Rider has simple, intuitive controls that will be familiar to fans of the genre: you move with the left thumbstick, aim with the right, and use the right and left triggers to shoot your main guns and bomb launchers (which technically makes them missiles, but whatever). There’s even a slight bit of inertia at work to keep you on your toes.
All of which makes Blue Rider feel like an even more old school, arcadey version of such recent retro shooters as Alien Nation, Nex Machina, and Dead Nation (albeit with unlimited ammo for your main gun). It even goes one step further by giving you just one life; no continues, no checkpoints, just the sweet release of death. Which will come often, especially when you get to the later levels, where both the enemies and the battlefields become more complex.
It’s so old school, in fact, that if you told me Blue Rider was an updated remake of an ’80s arcade game, I’d try to remember if I ever played it at the Fun & Games Arcade back when I was in high school. Ah…good times.
As much fun as Blue Rider is, though, it’s almost too simplistic. Though just where the options are concerned. For starters, there’s only the mode where you have one life. As a result, you often end up having to play the same part over and over and over, which gets tiresome after a while.
Blue Rider also offers nothing in the way of preferences. There’s no way to adjust the controls if you find them too loose or too stiff; you can’t change the difficulty if you’d prefer more or less of a challenge; and you can’t turn the music down or off.
In the end, Blue Rider is not for everyone. It’s decidedly more for old school gamers, ones who enjoy a challenge. It’s just too bad it doesn’t have more options when it comes to the controls, difficulty, and modes. But if you’re okay with the game being what it is, you’ll have fun with this decidedly old school shooter.