Chain Blaster Review
Chain Blaster sums up its gameplay in its title. You operate a space ship on a 2D play field, and enemy formations fly onto that field. Explode an enemy with a bomb, and it'll catch nearby enemies in its blast radius. Those enemies will explode themselves, extending the reach of the blast. By the end, you have a chain of, well, blasts.
The game is six stages long, taking a few minutes to see everything it has to offer. After that, the game loops with faster bogeys. Over the course of those six stages, you've got all of two types of enemies, though they do appear in a wide variety of formations. Aside from those, you'll face one type of miniboss and one boss in the sixth stage. Teeny tiny shooters are no stranger to Nintendo downloadable platforms, but it's something you should keep in mind; the amount of content in Chain Blaster is more like a 1982 arcade cabinet than a 2013 downloadable release.
But, like the best arcade machines of yesteryear, Chain Blaster appeals to standards we still appreciate today. Any given situation has multiple approaches, any one of them worthwhile based on your particular skill set.
Chain Blaster balances itself between competing methods of play using its scoring. By killing enemies in quick succession, you add kills to your chain counter. Go a few seconds without any chain kills, and your chain counter will end.
At first, I hung back and played it safe. Multiple enemy waves would fly around the screen at once, but they'd eventually meet up at one point, giving me one easy spot to bomb; from there, every enemy onscreen would get chained into an explosion. This safe method easily took me to the fourth loop of the game.
However, by waiting, I was letting my chain counter run out. My highest chain counter was a piddly 305.
Feeling more daring, I eventually started bombing earlier. This was more messy; rather than waiting for one easy spot to bomb, I'd bomb individual enemy waves dancing around different parts of the screen, requiring me to fly across the screen much more. On the other hand, because I didn't wait for enemy waves to play out, the timer on my chain counter wouldn't run out so easily. Although I reached a game over during the middle of my second loop, my highest chain counter was 630.
Both are viable methods of play with their own tradeoffs. The safe method will earn points slower and with more security, while the reckless method will earn points quicker but at more risk of death. It's a matter of experimentation to see which works best for you in which context.
Limited resources add a dash of excitement to this mix. You can keep at most three chain-starting bombs on hand at a time—bear in mind that this is your main source of firepower. In order to regain a bomb, you'll need to scoop up remnants left by dead enemies. Use all of your bombs, and you'll have to resort to a pea shooter for killing enemies to collect scraps and slowly put together a bomb. I was always on my toes, constantly refilling my bomb capacity. Three bombs isn't a whole lot to work with.
Not to mention that gameplay grows more hectic with each loop. Enemies shoot more bullets and fly out faster. Plus, faster enemy formations will lead to larger chains; your chain timer won't have so much downtime as enemies take less time to appear. Throw in an unlockable ship with its own unique battle tactics, and you've got a game which doesn't have much content, but constantly asks the player to reinterpret that content in a variety of ways.
+ Chain blasting is a simple, easy-to-understand gameplay mechanic that leads to a good amount of experimentation and variety in playstyles.
+ The visuals, while stereotypical of the genre, work well. Objects are easy to distinguish; your explosions are blue, the enemy shots are red, so on and so forth.
+ The music is also typical of the genre, but its dance-like bass and constant beat fit the rhythm of the game well.
- Unless you enjoy competing for high scores, this game has very little to offer.
Chain Blaster goes for an arcade-like sense of depth, employing gameplay mechanics that are easy to pick up but require practice, analysis and reinterpretation to master. The length of its campaign is its blessing and its curse; it lets the chain blast mechanic shine, but the enemy army doesn't know the meaning of the word "variety."