Son of Scoregasm is a twin-stick shooter from one-man developer Charlie’s Games and is very much a love letter to the genre. Not in any poetic sense, but rather in the way that the game distills the genre down to its roots and focuses on all the best aspects while trimming away the things you don’t need.
With no real plot to bother with aside from aliens stealing biscuits, the game throws you into the action right away with its first stage, entitled ‘Gentle Start.’ Here you’ll quickly learn the game’s core mechanics but there really isn’t too much to learn. As expected you move with the left stick while aiming, and shooting, is handled by the right stick. We always prefer twin-stick shooters that don’t have a shoot button so this is all good. However, Son of Scoregasm‘s most interesting mechanic is its pulse attack.
Pressing either shoulder button fires off that attack and it has two functions. The first is to clear any dangers in the immediate vicinity and the other is to transform enemies, and bullets, into tokens that increase your multiplier. These hover towards you, Geometry Wars 3-style, and so going for the big scores ends up being a balancing act as you figure out when to increase your multiplier and when to start shooting. Get enough points and you’ll earn a medal for that level. However, if you want those points you’ll need to let enemies get pretty close to you.
It’s an interesting take on the risk versus reward mechanic that this genre always benefits greatly from but the pulse attack is also really good in the way that it helps you to control the ridiculous amount of enemies that are coming towards you all the time. At times you are being absolutely swarmed (so much so that my Vita really seemed to be at its processing capacity) but thankfully you are powerful enough to cut swathes through the incoming horde. That’s what we want from our shoot ’em ups, absolute carnage, and it is there where Son of Scoregasm completely delivers.
Each of the game’s 28 stages is set inside a shaped arena and these vary from basic circular arenas to more interesting variants such as a the stage pictured above where you have to shoot at large pillars that crush your enemies or a triangular stage that is constantly contracting around you unless you shoot at its three points to expand it. The level design is certainly interesting enough to make you want to proceed through the game.
Son of Scoregasm handles difficulty by giving you a choice of paths (easy and hard) each time you finish a stage, kind of like Out Run. That means there are multiple endings, each one with its own boss. As with the main stages of the game, these bosses range from relatively easy to very difficult and while we appreciate this range, the game does get a little too difficult for its own good. So much so that a couple of months after the game’s US release, no one has completed all the trophies. We appreciate a challenge but there are limits to that and Son of Scoregasm doesn’t get it quite right.
That said, there are enough routes available for you to have a lot of fun with this game and the online leaderboards, and in game medal targets, do encourage some replayability and, much like Geometry Wars 3, while the gameplay mechanics never really change, there is enough variation in the levels to keep things interesting for a while but its a little bit lacking in comparison to Geometry Wars 3 and Super Stardust Delta. Also, visually the game isn’t really up to par with those games. The action is certainly slick and smooth but the visual design is pretty simplistic and the colour scheme is often a little too muted but on the plus side, the visuals never get in the way of the action. The sound is a fair bit more impressive though with its decent soundtrack and sound effects.
Criticisms aside, this is a very enjoyable example of the genre and is hugely addictive too. The action is direct and exciting while the scoring mechanics keep the game interesting and at its best Son of Scoregasm is one of the most tightly designed shooters we’ve seen in a while. An overhaul of the game’s difficulty would probably elevate the game a little bit but for now we’re happy to enjoy the portion of the game that we’re good enough to play but its a shame that the game’s great design didn’t get reflected in terms of its difficulty curve.
+ Well thought out scoring mechanics
+ Good level design
+ Perfect for pick up and play gaming
- Nothing special graphically