Soldner-X: Himmelsturmer

Games can be easy, games can be hard, and then games can be like Soldner-X. Playing Soldner-X is a bit like trying to recreate the orchestral delights of John Williams' Star Wars themes using only a spoon. The instrument is reasonably easy to pick up, and you can immediately start doing some interesting things with it, but if you want to actually achieve the goals set out, you're in for one of the most insane challenges ever created. The game's attitude is akin to a person watching Michael Phelps swim at the olympics, then telling their friend that they must achieve exactly the same thing but only swimming backwards, while being shot by lasers and, oh, by the way, the water is actually glue. It's worth saying in advance that if you are able to complete this game on the highest difficulty levels, then it'd be worth photographing your thumbs, signing the picture and selling it on e-bay, because it'd likely be an item of extreme rarity.

Soldner-X

So, it's a difficult game; possibly the most difficult on PS3 in fact, rivalling the "Beat Zico" trophy of Wipeout HD and the Warhawk supreme achievement awards. Why bother with such a difficult game then, when there's more instantly-satisfying action to be found in numerous other titles on PS3? There are two good answers to this question, though both may fail to satisfy some gamers. Firstly, for those seeking old-school arcade action in the form of a classic side-scrolling shooter, Soldner-X fits the bill brilliantly. Secondly, those seeking a truly devastating challenge, unimpressed by the relative ease of modern games, will find more than enough to sink their teeth into in Soldner-X. For those seeking just a little casual fun though, Soldner-X would be a wasted purchase, since inexperienced gamers would likely find themselves replaying the initial levels over and over, without seeing any of the other impressive features the game hides.

In traditional style, the game features a tiny ship, armed to the teeth, flying sideways across the screen, progressing through long, linear levels filled with thousands of enemies that relentlessly throw themselves at your ship in wave after wave. It's actually a lot like visiting the supermarket at the weekend, but slightly less scary, and it's easier to find pickups. If you can make it as far as the counter, a boss will always be waiting, determined to land the final hits that will send your ship spiralling into the ground. It's all a bit depressing, but when the game tells you that your ship is the last hope for a race of people, what other choice do you have? You can't leave the race to die, just to go and play Rayman Raving Rabbids with the kids. It's time to rise to the challenge.

Soldner-X

Players can control their ship to move in all four directions across the screen, using this manoeuvrability to evade enemy fire and enemies themselves (since considerable damage is incurred for collisions). From there, the ship can begin to spew torrents of laser fire in several directions (with more directions available as ship upgrades are discovered). Destroying particular numbers of enemies will allow players to build special meters in their ship and, by changing weapons strategically, insane combos can be achieved by unleashing insane weapon power across the level. The depth to the combat goes considerably beyond the basic shooting of classic titles, with huge scope for continual score improvement and online ranking competition. Though there might not be a huge number of levels, there are more than enough to keep players going for several hours on a first successful play through, and even that will require a considerable amount of practice first.

Easily the most exciting feature though is the cooperative mode. Instead of being forced to fly solo through every level, the option is there to play through the game with a friend, sharing the same screen and working together to dismantle the waves of enemies. It'll require good communication though to orchestrate your fight successfully. One nice touch though is that pickups are shared, preventing any chance of squabbling over resources. Instead, players should be able to cooperate in every sense of the word, and this is a feature that is sadly missing from most games. There's no online co-op though, much like Super Stardust, since it'd presumably be too tricky to coordinate the positions of every enemy across a network in just a store title. Still, the offline cooperative is more than enough to give this game a valuable advantage over other games in the same genre.

Soldner-X

To further improve the otherwise-daunting experience, the visual side of Soldner-X is relatively impressive. Since the game is just a store download, it was never likely to rival Metal Gear Solid, but it's incredibly sharp, with a superb frame rate, given the number of enemies on screen. It's also mightily colourful, with some quite beautiful backdrops. Still, it's not all that interactive (except for enemies and things to crash into), and the simple 2-D nature of the game, despite some pseudo 3-D layering, doesn't immerse you in the experience as much as it could. The audio is largely on a par with the visual side of the game, featuring solid, but minimal, voicework, decent explosions and laser effects, and some reasonably stirring theme tunes for each level. Nothing is outstanding and inspiring, but it helps complete the package built entirely around the relentless shooting gameplay.

Being a late-2008 release, trophies are in almost every game now, with this set to be a required condition from January 2009, and Soldner-X ticks this box with a reasonable selection. The awards are mostly based around obvious completion of levels in the game, but the trophies encourage players to find secret items and achieve additional targets like surviving without any damage for a set period of time. While there's nothing incredibly inventive about them, the trophies do add to the lastability of a game already bursting with challenge. As a result, if you're willing to stick with it, there's plenty to do in the game, and the title could keep gamers occupied for a very respectable number of hours, easily exceeding 20 for enthusiasts, but for those that don't click with the game, it might never provide the same level of interest. If you know what you're letting yourself in for, and still want to purchase this game, then you're exactly the right person to play it, but it's not the sort of title to dabble with on a whim.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

EastAsiaSoft

Developer:

SideQuest

Players:

1-2

Online:

Rankings

Release:

2008-12-18

Trophies:

13

Review summary

Gameplay:

Hard as nails but excellent classic gaming fun

Graphics:

Sharp, bright HD, but fairly simplistic

Sound:

An excellent score with good voices and effects

Lastability:

Tonnes of challenge to overcome

6.4

Red Giant

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