Day 564: StarBeam

Posted: 2012/05/26 in Indie Games

When is a clone of a classic game not a clone? In the case of “StarBeam”, it’s when you play past the free trial. If you only played the demo levels, you’d be forgiven for thinking “StarBeam” was merely a prettied-up version of arcade classic Defender. The reality is quite different.

Like a mash-up of the backstories of Defender and Robotron 2084, you’re protecting the last vestiges of humanity. As you play past the introductory levels, you run into a lot of neat things that no Defender game I’ve played ever did. Cloaking enemies, for one, that force you to watch for behaviour that suggests a cloaked enemy is present (obviously you’ll observe them trying to abduct humans, but there may be other clues if you look hard). Enemy behaviour is more varied, with them employing multiple weapons, and with you having to defend buildings as well as people. Later levels employ steam jets that are both a navigation hazard, and a threat to your health.

The final level throws out the whole book, though. There are few enemies left (I guess you got rid of most of them during the first several levels), but a supervolcano eruption threatens the remaining humans and you must destroy the debris from the volcano before it destroys buildings. You’re on the clock, and have to hold out until a weapon of mass destruction charges that will end the war; every human building that gets destroyed, though, extends the timer and makes it more difficult to save the day.

This is an intriquing way of doing an homage to a classic: start with only subtle differences, and grow the idea until it’s irrevocably different. Full marks to the developer, and I encourage people to check out “StarBeam” not only for how cool an idea that is but also for how well it plays.

Here’s what the developer (Lost World Creations) has to say about the game:

“StarBeam is a retro style arcade game where you must defend the settlements of the human race in the year 2352. As the pilot of the prototype Starbeam X768-B, the most advanced star fighter in the human arsenal, you are given the task of destroying the invading alien fleet.”

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