Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and one of retro gaming’s founding fathers Space Invaders has endured plenty of sycophancy over the last four decades. After appearing on the Wii U in 2015 and proclaiming the inclusion of a pixelated duck in its 2016 sequel before utilising the 3DS hardware a year later, Super Destronaut comes to the Switch complete with its current-gen ‘DX’ suffix and a coat of fluorescent paint to brighten up the tried-and-tested arcade classic formula.
Right from the off, developer Petite Games have brazenly embraced the concept of the retro shooter, using a garish colour palette, pixelated sprites and a glorious electro soundtrack. As cool and old-school as the tunes are, at times the music speeds up and slows down in a manner that might even give an aspirin a headache, but at least there’s soothing but sparse voice work to increase the production value.
Aesthetically, the playing field is a mix of scrolling wireframe models, bold, neon pixel art aliens and fireworks. Lots of fireworks. While this can be quite pretty when things start off at a leisurely pace, the combination of particles, lights and enemy fire can distract and cause a number of frustrating game overs.
The alien intruders themselves are actually cute, quirky and quite likeable. Each has their own colour and groovy animation as they go from side to side. They are also equipped with specific power-ups – such as homing missiles – or have certain attack patterns, and they generally try to cause you as much hassle as possible. While most of the enemy fire is straightforward, overbearing special effects can obscure your view, and this – along with the limited movement of your ship – makes some attacks almost impossible to avoid. In addition, translucent ghosts are a hazard, as are the waves that descend from the top of the screen; needless to say, the action is pretty unrelenting.
So, Super Destronauts on the surface is an unashamedly derivative but decent enough arcade shooter which has its roots firmly planted in nostalgic soil, but is there anything in terms of modes or mechanics to make it stand out? Challenge mode does exactly what it says on the tin. The 30 stages wildly fluctuate in terms of difficulty and range from the pretty standard jaunt of reaching a certain score to reaching a certain score within a set time limit. There are other objectives to complete, such as getting your multiplier to a particular level or collecting a variety of power-ups. On the plus side, all of these are available from the beginning, meaning that if certain stage doesn’t really appeal, you can always move on.
Time attack gives you 90 seconds to go for a high score, and there’s a local multiplayer mode thrown in as well. As with the challenge mode, things get repetitive quickly, regardless of whether you’re playing alone or with a friend. Finally, hardcore mode gives you just one life to rack up your best score.
With no online multiplayer, your other option is to reach for the top of the various online leaderboards. Killing enemies without getting hit will increase your multiplier and in turn allow you to reach astronomical scores to post for all to see. Whether this is enough to keep you coming back after you’ve completed all of the challenges or have a buddy to play with is up to you; while the core of Super Destronaut DX is functional – even fun in short bursts – it is unlikely to keep your attention for long, especially considering the stern competition on Switch right now.
If Space Invaders floats your intergalactic boat, Super Destronaut DX will definitely scratch your itch and the attempts to nudge and wink its way through your fond memories of neon lights and electro tunes are admirable. However, unless you’re a high score hunter or a multiplier maniac who has had their fill of more interesting shooters or music-based games on the system like Just Shapes And Beats or Lumines Remastered, Super Destronaut DX will end up being a brief time killer, but not much else.