While it may seem that this modern day in gaming is filled with various first-person shooters and fighting games, every once in a while there is a game that really brings players back to the good old days of old-fashioned shoot-em-ups. SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance does exactly that while also adding some RPG elements to help make the game more interactive and customizable.
What Is It About?
Developed by a couple guys at a small studio calle Brain Shape Games, Blue Shield Alliance is a twin-stick shooter that seems to have drawn inspiration from games like Geometry Wars and Super Stardust. Unlike either of the two, the game does have somewhat of a narrative to keep the flow of the action rather meaningful.
Of course, it being a space shooter, there really isn't much to say about the story. The bottom line is that the player(s) act as the last line of defense against evil. There's a lot more to it than that, which will become evident with the game's lines upon lines of text, but it's probably best to leave it at that.
Why Should I Care?
What separates Blue Shield Alliance from a lot of other independent games is its insisting support of co-op, and while it isn't a required feature, the game is definitely more enjoyable when played with others. Add the fact that the game primarily makes use of the analog sticks as its control method, and you have a game that's easy to make people around you give it a try.
Before jumping into a level, the player(s) get to decide between what kind of ship they want to use. Each one has various strengths and weaknesses that make each option different, giving players time to adjust their strategy if they happen to be unsuccessful between missions. In the later levels, we found that it's best to have four players each choose a different kind of ship so they can divide whatever work has to be done evenly for more success.
In every level, the primary objective is to stay alive. It isn't an on-rails shooter like Ikaruga, so it's all about free roaming and wreaking havoc upon whatever ships you see. Most of the levels require the players to defend their home base and repair it using salvage, which is the stuff that enemy ships leave behind after being destroyed. Aside from repairing their bases, salvage can be used to build the players' shield, as well as for higher point totals.
Upon completion of a level, the player(s) can then upgrade their ships using the salvage and money they collected, which is imperative for the later levels because of the inevitable spikes in difficulty.
At first the game might seem incredibly easy, especially when playing with three other space shooter enthusiasts, but the spike in difficulty you'll experience after ten or so levels becomes quite apparent. To go along with that, there's also some lag that occurs when there's too much action going on at the screen at once, and that's really unfortunate because that's all that keeps the game going when it comes to sheer excitement and interest.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance has 36 missions in its main campaign, with about nine in the game's challenging survival mode, so this game can keep gamers occupied for hours of salvaging action. Other than that, there really isn't much to do, and with the game's lack of achievements (which we do acknowledge is impossible for an indie game), there's hardly any incentive to keep going.
As far as its production values go, the game doesn't look or sound bad at all. The menus are tight and easy to navigate. At times the mountains of text can be hard to read, and it would be nice to include some voice acting or a narrator, but it isn't totally necessary. The art design deserves its due though, because the hand-drawn characters look pretty cool even though they're probably just placeholders in a story that really doesn't matter.
Blue Shield Alliance is a fun game to play, and it's a whole lot more fun when you have friends to play it with. Unfortunately, the game doesn't support online co-op, so it's really best to play in a large space with a large TV due to all the small things the game forces you to pick up. It isn't extraordinary by any means, but at $3 — why not give it a try?