Overall Score 72%
The side-scrolling shoot-em-up is an example of a highly underused military tactic. No army, navy or airforce I am familiar with would attack a heavily armed and numerous foe with three fighters, one at a time. Strange, as it seems to be rather effective in every game that does so! Once again this tactic is employed...
Absolute Blue is a fairly traditional shooter in the guise of R-Type, Menace, Project X and a myriad of similar titles. Your ship navigates a horizontally scrolling landscape, blasting and avoiding hordes of enemies. Sometimes enemies will drop weapon pickups that switch between three primary weapons - Triple Shot, Bouncing Balls and the Sinus Pulse. There are also speed and weapon powerups/downs, secondary weapon systems and the odd extra life.
Controls are very simple - arrow keys and two fire buttons (primary and secondary weapons). Autofire is automatic. Collect the plasma laser upgrade and you can charge up and let loose a lethal blast of electrical energy! You'll need good reflexes to navigate those tunnels at speed - your ship's shields offer some protection but can only take so much damage before your ship explodes.
Good looking and smooth, it is difficult to fault the graphics. They give everything a shiny chrome feel and retain the style of the genre. Sound too is good, with explosions all over the place and some standard thumping tracks in the background. In fact, the graphics and sound are well built but seem rather bland - fit for purpose, but nothing exceptional and nothing distinctive.
There is some variation, however. For instance, some levels switch direction and you'll be going the other way (a little disconcerting at first!). Sometimes there is gravity, which constantly pulls your ship downwards (a pain in those twisty tunnels). And the speed of scrolling also varies - sometimes going faster, sometimes slower.
The three main weapon types all have their own effect - though there are some balance issues. The triple shot is good, and when powered up enough is the only weapon to fire backwards (sometimes useful). Bouncing Balls is a somewhat odd but powerful weapon which is especially effective in tight tunnels. The Sinus Pulse, however, is remarkably weak even at full power and I dislike it so much I consider it a negative pickup!
Absolute Blue is a playable and effective game in a genre that often lacks originality. There are few if any bugs of note, the biggest drawbacks being the limited range of weaponry types and some translation hiccups. This is reflected, however, by a failure to produce anything new. Even the first mission's boss has a strong resemblance to his R-Type opposite number!
Absolute Blue is a well crafted production but, in a genre such as this, it must compete against many similar games both free and for sale - many with similar production values. Is there enough here to make this title stand out? Indeed, is there anywhere left to innovate in this genre?
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