Review: Laser Disco Defenders (Vita)

And I thought Assault Suits Leynos was tough. HA!

LDD art

Platform: PlayStation Vita (PSN)
Developer: Out of Bounds Games
Publisher: Excalibur Games
# of Players: 1
MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Official Site
Score: A (90%)

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Don’t let the cute art style and funky tunes fool you one bit, folks. Laser Disco Defenders is a tough cookie of a shooter that will test the skills and patience of the most hardcore gamers out there. Ten bucks is a bargain for a game that takes a while to complete and will keep the best coming back for more. That trailer makes it look like a simple “pew-pew-pew!” casual bit of fluff, but make no mistake – the game will eat your lunch before you make it to the first boss and it only gets tougher as you progress. At some point the more impatient out there will possibly want to jump up and down on their poor Vitas simply because stomping on both hands will only result with some nurse feeding them applesauce for a few weeks.

That said, I love this game quite a lot.

Yep, there’s a story here about the evil space meanie Lord Monotone wanting to get everyone in the galaxy groovin’ to his awful music and yep, you get a few partially animated cut scenes that tell that tale and a few other bits. But the meat of the game comes from paying and surviving what’s described as a “self-inflicted bullet hell” set in procedural levels.

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The LLD team is made up of Mr. Baker (most health, slowest), Tommy (quicker, less health), Donna (even faster, lower health), and Liz (super fast, but one hit spells doom). Mr. Baker will be your guide for a chunk of the game, as he’s able to take a few hits. But as you progress, you’ll unlock upgrades that can do everything from add health to increase shot speed and pattern.

The catch is, with the exception of laser deathtraps that shoot from certain objects, your shots and enemy shots all ricochet around the screen and stay on maps. Eeek. Not only that, but add spikes, enemies with melee attacks, and bosses that are too intent on disco-balling you into powder, and you get a game that’s a master class in forcing you to get good at it. Did I mention the maps are randomly generated? No? Well, I just did now.

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That randomness means there’s a rogue-like aspect to the game where dying sends you back to the beginning if you’ve not cleared a set of stages (eek!). Replaying a set of levels again means you’ll get a different layout or see rooms that look familiar, but are doubly challenging because you’ll still need to survive by thinking fast and shooting judicially in some areas while going all out in others.

Fortunately, earned upgrades stay with you, so the frustration factor is lessened as you progress through the missions. Hit detection is quite tight, so you expert dodgers will do well. The game seems clearly made to be replayed tons of times, as there are online leaderboards and some players may not unlock every outfit on the first play through. Visually, the artwork is great throughout, but the game screams for a larger screen so you can check out its 70’s style in a higher resolution. I’m typing this review away from the home office, but I see on the PlayStation store that:

Purchasing this content entitles you to both the PS4™ system and “PS Vita” system versions!

Which is always a good thing in my book.

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As for that soundtrack? YES, it’s SUPER awesome and yes, you can get it for FREE by popping your email address into the box on the official site. You’ll also get some nice art to stick on your PC’s wall as a backdrop if you like that sort of thing. Anyway, I’m still trying to beat this one, so I can’t say how it ends. But I’m far enough in that I can say hardcore arcade shooter fans should jump on this even if they hate disco music and gaudily coiffed and dressed heroes. Then again, LDD reminded me of games like Space Channel 5 and Jet Set Radio where catchy visuals and great music combined with killer programming to make instant classics still remembered and played today. So yeah, get Laser Disco Defenders now and get ready to groove hard for a good long time, I say.

-GW

Review code supplied by the publisher

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