The OUYA’s smaller marketplace has led to a feeling of there being little to play from time time, but it has also led to games that would otherwise be ignored getting more attention. The first time that sentiment struck me was when I browsed the storefront looking for something that both seemed fun and was also something I haven’t played before. I stumbled upon Pester and thought it might be an enjoyable shooter and boy was I right about that. I had never heard of the game prior to firing up the OUYA storefront one night and seeing one of the few games on it I didn’t have footage of in Pester.
Since capturing footage on the system is a hit-or-miss endeavor, I decided to instantly try this out and thanks to the free to try model of the system, if I didn’t like it, I’d be out nothing except the time it took to download, play it, and uninstall it. Fortunately, Pester didn’t wind up being one of those games. Instead, it grabbed my attention the second I fired it up with the developer dedicating the game to his newborn child. Right then and there, I knew this was a game that had heart behind it and playing it on the OUYA, a system created with passionate gamers in mind, just seemed like a perfect fit.
To my surprise, I learned afterwards that Pester and the dev’s follow-up game Super Killer Hornet, have actually been available on the XBLIG market for about a year. I wondered how I could’ve missed them since I follow indie gaming fairly closely and determined that it could just be due to crowded marketplaces on each platform. With PC gaming, you’ve got a logjam for indies where are tons of games released and they can either bleed together or sometimes just slip between the cracks. In theory, XBLIG should reduce that since it doesn’t have as many releases, but it’s also difficult to find releases on it since they’re buried on the 360’s interface, and are part of an area flooded by OMGTEHBOOBIEZ, zombie games, avatar games, and things that turn controllers into vibrators.
Pester may seem like a basic Galaga clone on the surface, but there’s a lot to enjoy in it. The duo mode lets you control two ships at once – one with each stick, and provides an added challenge in case the regular barrage of stuff hurdling towards you isn’t enough. If you’d like to avoid all of the smaller enemies, there’s a boss rush, and you can tailor the soundtrack to your liking. It’s one of the best indie game soundtrack I’ve heard in a while, and has some exciting chiptune tracks that will stay stuck in your head after playing. Pester‘s early-’80s visuals beguile the on-screen mayhem, which gets fairly hectic, but never comes off as too much to handle. After death, you always know you CAN do better, but it will take practice. The learning curve isn’t so steep that you’ll just stop and never play the game again.
Super Killer Hornet may sound like either a wacky Japanese TV show involving monster suits, or perhaps a New Japan Pro Wrestling tag team, but it is in fact a shoot-em-up with math. I’m not sure if that’s any crazier than either of those things, but it sure is fun. Playing Pester and and then this feels like a natural evolution of things because you go from one early ’80s-style game in the genre done right to a more ’90s-style one. Pester’s finely-crafted shooting action seemed to serve as a prototype for KSH, which is absolutely crazy. You’ve got enemies piling on the screen quickly and two ways to destroy them outside of bombs.
Your fastest attack is a four-shot blast that shoots out quickly and does a bit of damage, but can cover a lot of ground quickly and thin out a crowded screen. Then there’s a thin laser blast that does a ton of damage, but slows your ship down and only takes up a small amount of space. If you’ve got enemies across a wide area, it’s not going to be of much use. However, if you luck out and have enemies all in a single-file line, you can take them all out quickly. The risk/reward factor with each weapon is easy to figure out on the fly, which a godsend since you also have to do math.
Yes, there’s math in a shoot-em-up! And amazingly, it actually makes the game better. It may seem like too much to handle, but when you get into a groove, you’ll take out enemies, grab whatever math problem you can and hope to find the solution before you die. Part of the thrill is getting to the solution, seeing it right before you, and then dying. You came so close and you find yourself either wishing you’d used up a bomb, or just managed to avoid them. Then there are times when you survive, but can only do so by picking a side of the screen that has the wrong answer! It’s momentarily frustrating, then you just restart and try again.
Each game embodies what I wanted to experience when I bought into the idea of the OUYA over a year ago. Both games have charm, a lot of character, and stand out. Heck, Super Killer Hornet even has a TATE mode for goodness sake. They’re very polished games and are aided by the OUYA’s free-to-try setup, which also applies to their XBLIG releases as well. Luckily for the great many who don’t have an OUYA, but have a 360, both games can be played on that platform as well. Pester is also available on PC at IndieVania for $1, and the Xbox Live Indie Game marketplace for 80 MS Points (or $1 USD). Super Killer Hornet can also be obtained for that price on the 360. Unfortunately, it is not yet available on the PC. Anyone who enjoys a good shoot-em-up should try them both out — you won’t be disappointed.