Released five years ago on the PlayStation 3, Soldner-X 2: Final Destination has now moved pixel for pixel onto Sony’s powerhouse portable. The bullet hell shooter is a genre that is noticeably shallow in the handheld console’s library but I’m afraid to say that X 2 isn’t deep enough to truly fill the void.
A side-scrolling, 2D shoot’em up, Soldner-X 2 plays exactly as you would expect it to. You fly your spaceship up, down, left and right trying to shoot your way through a barrage of enemies as you dodge the projectiles they fire back at you. Controls are tight; navigating your way through cluttered and frantic screens isn’t what you’d call a breeze but there are no cheap or unfair deaths here. If you die, it’s because you aren’t good enough.
Good enough at dodging, that is. Most of my concentration when playing the game went towards dodging enemy fire as holding down X-to-shoot was good enough to dispose of most of my aggressors. It’s more about damage limitation than dishing out the damage. After a while, I simply switched my brain onto autopilot and watched as the ammo did all the work for me. This even carries over into all 7 stages’ boss fights. Their challenge simply comes from the fact that their attacks are harder to dodge. I felt like a spectator.
The weapons at your disposal are a little strange. One flies out like an undulating, laser worm whilst another more closely resembles a random stream of lightning. Weapons like these are a bit confusing and hard to harness and I found myself resorting to standard bullets (well, standard space bullets) most of the time. No matter which form of ammunition you choose to use though, it’ll be a lovely, shiny, bright colour that lights up your screen like a Christmas tree.
Unfortunately, though, the ammo is the only pleasant aesthetic present within the game. Backgrounds are 3D, animated, scrolling images but, rather unusually, look like they’re being projected onto a flat surface. This leaves the sprites appearing totally detached from the levels behind them; it’s like looking at some dodgy green screen. Similarly, these backgrounds are dull and repetitive with greys and browns being the most consistent colours on the palette.
Moreover, the soundtack, too, gets a resounding ‘meh’. It’s techno, dubstep-ish – as you would expect from a spacey title – but it’s neither modern nor retro enough to really evoke any sort of emotion. It’s just kind of there, and doesn’t enhance or diminish the experience in any way.
The worst – or maybe best – thing, though, is that the game is over in the space of an hour. Sure, you can go back chasing high scores if you want to… I didn’t want to.
Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype is a competent if unremarkable ‘shmup’. Bland(and weird) level designs don’t thrill the eye, an atypical soundtrack doesn’t thrill the ears and somewhat boring gameplay doesn’t exactly thrill the thumbs. It’s a passive, unsatisfying experience. If you’re looking for a shoot’em up to play on your Vita, allow me to recommend Resogun, instead.