Take your hands off the console and die.
Playing Chain Blaster for the first time, the experience was immediately admirable and provided a formidable challenge, similar to quite a bit of shooters on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. However, as I continued to hone my skills — eventually ranking in the 200s on the online leaderboards out of nearly 4,000 — I began to realize something.
What initially gave the impression of a cleverly programmed shooting experience of endless, randomly generated waves of foes revealed itself to be something much simpler in nature. It managed to uphold a brutal edge and, though ultimately performing lower than expectations, still was enough of a challenge to make up for the revealing loss. What loss and what made up for said loss, you ask? Let’s delve into the subject.
Initially, there is an actual setting and brief overview mysteriously left out of the actual game. Chain Blaster is takes place in the future where a fatal computer virus has infiltrated the world’s super computer and has the world’s nuclear weapons ready to be launched. With all life on the planet in jeopardy of annihilation, the player is given an anti-virus ship and tasked with combating the virus. Hilariously enough, even though the story makes it seem as if it is actually possible to kill off the virus, the best you can really do is survive as long as you can without getting bulldozed by the swarms of enemies.
Chain Blaster promises an explosive chain reaction shooting experience and does so quite well, even at the expense of offering a variety of content. The goal here is to maneuver your ship — known as an “anti-virus program” in the game — firing shots and “Chain Blasters” (see image above) to destroy the enemies, all while evading the enemy ships and gunfire. If you are successful, you will have accumulated a high score before the game ends.
All of this truly works well enough to allow you to form a game plan for soaring to the top of the leaderboards. While one out of the two available ships allows you to fire shots to eradicate the waves of enemy ships, you need to make use of “Chain Blasts” by gathering “Blast Matter,” energy that appears from destroyed virus ships to gradually charge up the “Blast Gauge” in order to be successful.
As soon as the “Blast Gauge” is filled, it will begin to flash, letting you know that you are all set to perform a “Chain Blast” or “Overdrive” maneuver. To naturally add to the game’s difficulty, the developers have split the Blast Gauge up in to a maximum of three sections, forcing you to be conservative of your abilities and to strategize. As previously stated, this all works as intended.
The next successful element to the game are “Chain Warps,” which are chain explosions resulting from firing a “Chain Blast” at an enemy. It ultimately eradicates all connecting enemies in a wave. If you’re looking to play casually, this gameplay element will be dull to you, but if you’re looking for ways to take your skill to the next level, timing your “Chain Blasts” to trigger Chain Warps will be essential to achieving bonus points, all of which is based on the number of enemies destroyed in the chain.
Thankfully, the game offers aiming guide called “Cross Point,” displaying the points where enemies are due to meet. Once you get the hang of it all, you will soon be able to discovering more points at which enemies meet not shown by the “Cross Point” guide.
As a novice or even as a an advanced player, you may find yourself underutilizing the Overdrive function. It will reduce the speed of all enemies on screen and their gunfire when fired, allowing you to more easily dodge and take out these enemies if in trouble. It will also allow you a few seconds of immunity to do what was previously described. Once again, this all works very well and, if mastered a fatal encounter, can transform into a moment of opportunity.
Finally, what is probably my favorite game mechanic in Chain Blaster: destroying enemy ships will help to fill the “Extend Gauge,” ultimately prolonging your life. Similar to the “Blast Gauge,” this gauge has three sections, meaning you can maintain a maximum of three lives. Predictably, when you collide with an enemy or are hit by their fire, you will sustain damage and lose one section of the gauge. It’s not as simple as maintaining your lives, though; the game encourages you to maintain a maximum of three lives, as doing so triggers an “Extended Bonus” that adds to your score incrementally. The game ends when you lose all your lives.
As described, this game excels in the gameplay department and offers an explosive chain reaction shooting experience that can be well worth your time. The problem is are two particularly glaring issues.
Firstly, similar to the issue The Wonderful 101 suffered, Chain Blaster fails to teach you how to play and tell you what each ship maneuver does. As a result, what had the potential of being an initially satisfying experience ends up frustrating players by leaving them to find out how to play on their own. For some people, this is tolerable or even preferred, but for those looking to jump in and play, this was a deterrent that could have been easily avoided by simply adding in a tutorial — and an effective one at that.
The next is a concern expressed in the beginning of this review: Chain Blaster carelessly reuses the same wave pattern of enemies for every preceding stage that comes after the final stage boss battle. While the difficulty level does increase with every stage (faster waves of enemies and more enemy gun fire), this ends up being a turn-off to fans of the shooter franchise looking for a game that is just as heavy with content as is it is gameplay.
Speaking of content, Chain Blaster only has one mode: the single player mode. So if you were hoping for something else to do within the game after failing your mission to save the world (I’m telling you, the game is hilariously depressing when you know the story), there is nothing else. Luckily, G-rev, the developers behind Chain Blaster opted to add in online leaderboards, where you can upload your top score and compare it with competing players from around the world. The inclusion of this mode at least drives you to keep coming back to achieve a higher ranking.
Checkout Counter: Buy it or Skip it?
In summation, Chain Blaster is truly an entertaining experience of chain-blasting fun. Sure, there are obvious amounts of improvements that could be made, such as including a basic tutorial and having each stage be unique, but there is very little that actually prevents you from enjoying the game. In my opinion, any shooter that has gameplay deep enoguh to allow you to get into ‘the zone’ is worth your time and money — if you’re a fan of the genre, of course.
What I’d Like to See from a Sequel
Aside from for the critiques mentioned in the low score, there are some things that I believe a sequel to this game could benefit from. The only one worth mentioning is a cooperative multiplayer mode, though it should obviously be with harder bosses and waves of enemies to making having a partner worth its while. There aren’t many Nintendo 3DS eShop games that take advantage of the system’s online capabilities, so not only would such an amendment add more to initial experience, it would also make the game clearly stand out against the rest.
- Repetitive, yes, but each stage presents faster and tougher waves of enemies
- Lower screen provides useful in-game statistics
- Leaderboards keep you coming back for more
- Great analog-stick controls (Anti-virus ships are easy to maneuver)
- Skill-based challenge (A strategy, good memory, and steady thumbs are required to rank highly)
- Repetitive (Each stage presents the same enemy wave patterns)
- Content deficient (One mode)
- 3D visuals are decent at best