A few weeks ago I managed to dislocate my knee, leading to surgery and a lot of healing time (read: sitting on my arse). In the time since my surgery I have realised that as fun as being at home and not working may seem, the novelty soon turns to boredom. Instead of making headway on my gaming pile of shame (The Witcher 3 being on top of that list), I have found myself playing games that require minimal effort and attention, titles that you can play with something on in the background (Star Wars: The Clone Wars for me).
The games that I’m referring to are easy to pick up and play for ten minutes or three hours depending on your mood, like Rocket League and Gang Beast, both of which I have clocked far too many hours on. Syder Reloaded, a remastered version of the 2012 Syder Arcade, is a bullet-hell shooter that offers just such an option, with a number of campaign missions alongside a survival option that gives players an option to keep coming back.
The ice stages make for a really nice colour contrast with the laser fire
Like most other bullet-hells, Syder sees you take control of a ship, moving on a 2D plane, destroying waves of enemy ships before encountering a larger, more well equipped boss. A simple premise for sure, but it isn’t exactly a fair fight. Where the player controls a single ship, the enemies on screen at any given time number in the dozens.
Right out of the gate you have the choice between three different ships – the Dart, fast yet lightly weaponised, the Mule, slow and packing a punch and the Wasp which is a general mix of the two. Each of these ships feel reasonably different and each require a change in gameplay and a specific special weapon such as a missile barrage or laser beam.
Nothing like punching a dart (into hyperspace)
The campaign offering consists of six missions. Each mission is fairly similar in structure – take out all of the enemies in the play area before facing a boss ship with a large health pool. The regular enemies that you encounter range from small strafing ships that shoot directly ahead, mounted turrets that can’t move but fire freely to small spheres that rush toward you before exploding in a wave of energy.
At any given time there will be a collection of different enemies attacking you at once, making sure that the screen is absolutely littered with blaster fire (they don’t call it bullet hell because you’re picking daisies while eating unicorn farts), so avoiding fire is just as pivotal as returning it. Enemies tend to appear in waves, but occasionally spawn closer to the player. This isn’t an issue on its own, but there is close to no warning that they will do so, rather the area glows very faintly mere seconds before their arrival. Factor this in with the fact that a collision with an enemy ship results in death and you find a painfully frustrating situation.
Some missions have additional stipulations atop the usual shoot until the enemies are gone. Half of the missions include everyone’s favourite objective – escorting. During the course of such missions, a friendly fleet plot along in the background, requiring you to eliminate ships that pose a threat to your friends. It’s hard enough to keep yourself alive in the chaos, let alone a collection defenceless friendlies. This isn’t a welcome inclusion and hurts the overall campaign portion of the game significantly.
Another escort mission…thanks
Boss fights at the end of missions range from a good test of skill to a standard enemy, just a bit bigger. The best enemies are gargantuan in size, with the fight itself being like a mini mission, requiring you to manoeuvre within the confines of the boss itself, destroying its core. The others however are simple and a bit dull, asking you to dodge while shooting, without any change in tactic at all.
The survival portion of the game is exactly how it sounds – destroy enemy ships and survive for as long as you can, with the difficulty rising as time goes on. This is a serviceable mode that allows for replayability, complete with an online leaderboard that I can see many getting hooked on. The downside is that there is only one area available, making each crack at the mode fairly samey.
Syder Reloaded ticks a number of bullet-hell boxes, with hectic, good looking combat, and a gameplay loop that has the potential to hook people in – but that’s the problem. Syder has some solid foundations, but it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from others in the genre. Resogun, a similar title, has a dash action that provide a means of escaping a tight situation, and I wish that Syder had a system like this that allowed it to be unique.
Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher