Blast Axis (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15 (Game has a free demo)
Where To Get It: Steam

Space is big… But it does seem like, whenever there’s a horde of aliens, mindless or otherwise, infesting somewhere, it’s somewhere we are. This time, in Blast Axis, it’s interdimensional, pink and purple beasties, who just seem… Well, aggressive overall.

At first, I have to admit I wasn’t enamoured of the 6-degrees-of-freedom shooty spaceship-in-a-space-station funtimes of Blast Axis. I enjoyed some things, like the bio-luminescent, odd entities that infested the station, and even found that bright green nightvision mode more tolerable than other games I’d seen it in (I’m just not the biggest fan of bright green night goggles overall, sad to say.) But the map, at first, confused me, and as I wandered through its first (zeroeth) level, I felt… Somewhat of a lack of cohesion. Wait, why is this tunnels and junk, tunnels and ju-

The sudden realisation people lived here. Worked here. Died here.

And then I hit the second level, and I started seeing a little bit of the scale. An avenue of buildings, big honkin’ walkways, doors… This used to be a place where a lot of people lived, and seemingly, in the grand tradition of such games, mined rocks, and presumably explored things where “Should” was probably a better start to their sentence than “Could.” And I also answered the question for myself I’d also asked in that first level. Where was the difficulty?

Well, let’s digress into limits. There are more than 10 monsters, but not more than 20. There are 6 weapons, 10 ammo types, a couple of firing modes… At first, it seems a bit limited. But those ammo types, those firing modes, do introduce interesting things, and, even on Minor Hazard (the game’s equivalent of “Easy”), it’s… It’s surprisingly easy to get blindsided, and from quite a ways away, by even a moderate group of gribbleys. Some fire swirly trails that hurt. Some fire lots of odd spikey icicle looking things that hurt, like a machine gun. But one of the first enemies you encounter is both the most interesting… And the one that blindsided me the worst.

Taken about a twentieth of a second after the little sod rammed me. In two seconds, his friend will ram me from a completely unexpected angle. Thankfully, this was early, so I had a lot of backup armour.

They’re inoffensive, squid like things, with a single large eye, and glowing some blue/purple/pink shade like every other enemy (I actually like that, it makes for better visual distinction, and the glow makes them easier to spot in the dark too. The very common dark.) And, until they notice you, they really do seem inoffensive. Hell, in the first level, you rapidly chunk them before they do. But when they do notice you, and you don’t notice them… That’s when it hurts. Because they’re suddenly fast, attack with headbutts, and then vanish into some corner, until they spot you again. And again. And again. Projectiles, you can see. The mine like enemies… You can blow up, easily. But those little sods? They did more damage to me than even some of the more powerful enemies later on, overall.

So, from an unpromising beginning, Blast Axis started winning me over. Cyclopean machinery, long dead… The axis of the outer wheel, so far away… The aesthetic started to win me over. The music is filled with low key dread, the station and the machinery of the game feel worn (even the ship is clunky and battered, and I love that.) Aesthetically, it pleases, even the slightly clunky menu, and the oddly 70s style title.

“I can’t shake him!” “Stay on target…”

This is not to say the game is without flaw. There is a dash boost, and it’s all too easy to trigger when you don’t want it to (the trigger is double tapping, but even “tap…tap” can sometimes trigger it, which is annoying when you’re being cautious.) The keys are rebindable, but I found it odd that Shift is the default “go down” key (normally it’s Ctrl.) And the map is… Hard to get used to, as it’s not your normal map, but a map centered around you. So using it can sometimes be a distinctly confusing and irritating experience.

Otherwise, though, this definitely isn’t a bad 6DOF shooter, and it starts you on the easy difficulty, which is nice (even if, judging by it, medium and hard are going to be utter bastards. Minor Hazard is challenging, tense at times, but definitely not unbeatable.) I wouldn’t exactly call it a good introduction to this subgenre, but it does feel like it has a solid place within it, with its own touches that make it interesting.

For cross dimensional invaders looking for a good space station to inhabit, please contact TMW, care of… Well, we’ll find you when you’re ready for an offer…

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