Xbox 360’s live arcade (XBLA) is notorious for having more than a few bad indie games. In a place where you can pretty much create a game that is just your controller rumbling and get paid for it, it can be tough to find a good game that is reasonably priced. Score Rush more than fits the bill, and is incredibly reasonably priced. There really is not much of a plot going on, with the basic “sh’mup” or shoot ’em up story of space ships fighting other space ships. What sets it apart from other games of it’s type is the fact that it is legitimately hard to get far in the game. The bullet fire in the game makes it pretty hard to maneuver your way around the board. Although in other bullet-hell games the enemy usually only fires at you when you get close, Score Rush has constant firing at all times. These bullets will often form intricate chains, and being hit by one will often kill you. This is extremely frustrating, but not at the fault of the game. A lot of the time these chains of bullets will trap you into an unavoidable box.
The enemy fire and just general enemies flying at you can be pretty intense at times, but luckily your ship is equipped with bombs that will save the day. Much like in Geometry Wars these bombs will wipe the screen clean of enemies, but they will appear again pretty fast. Also, these bombs are of course very limited. In addition to bombs, your ship can also pick up power-ups that are dropped by killing certain enemies. These power-ups do many useful things such as increase bullet-fire or add a wing-man. There is a limit to these, of course… So when you have upgraded to your full potential, these power ups will cancel out bullets. I thought this was a nice feature, as opposed to other titles where you would just get extra points for these. Another feature would be the invincibility period (which you get from killing a boss). The controller will shake, and you are invincible for the entirety of the controller shaking. This feature was jarring at first, as the sound of the boss blowing up was a little like a poltergeist being destroyed.
The visual style of this game is pretty unique and equally as striking. Borrowing the neon look of other arcade titles, there are some interesting character designs. The mini-bosses mostly just look like giant blobs of marshmallow. The main bosses have some more shape to them but still look pretty weird. Bullets and bullet chains have a different style all together from the game, and have the simulated 3d-ish look to them. You ship is seemingly an ode to Pac-Man as it’s C-shaped. Bullets from your ship are a confetti of what looks like fireworks. All of the action is happening in an almost grid-like space, which seems to sway with every bullet and explosion. This also reminds me a lot of Geometry Wars. The soundtrack is nothing special. The sounds of the game are pretty generic as far as firing. Despite the fact that there is an awesome game here for almost nothing as far as cost, there are a few drawbacks.
Although the game does support four players, this is limited to one Xbox. This was very disappointing to here, as I was excited to challenge my friends to a game. I guess it could be a great inexpensive party game or one to play with your friends if your all over someone’s house. Also, the leader-board makes it seem like you can see your score as it relates to the world or at the very least your friends. This is not the case, as you are only challenging your own score each time. There are mock scores on the board that have been set by the developers to beat, but it’s upsetting that they are not everyone in the world. Also, the enemy patterns are the same every time. This kind of becomes a little more than annoying when you have died at the same point. I can imagine if one were to play continuously, they could memorize the patterns to make the game easier. Despite the problems, Score Rush is still a great deal. It is a great game to pass the time, and will certainly keep you playing for hours (although it may just seem like minutes at the time).
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[Images and trailer provided by Xona Games]