Super Space Serpent SE Review

I quite enjoy a good twin-stick shooter. We’ve had a fair share of them this gen on the Xbox One, and whilst many of them tend to be fairly hit and miss, they’ve all typically brought something new to the proverbial table. Super Space Serpent SE bucks this trend, and instead focuses its efforts on taking us back to the arcade days of old. Despite the fact that it’s very straightforward, and overlooking some localisation issues and some poor design choices, it’s not actually half bad. In essence, it’s a simplistic ‘take it or leave it’ entry to the genre.

Booting up the game takes you to a clean and concise menu, in which you’re presented with a handful of options to take to. Here, you can do the usual; alter some settings, browse the credits, check out the highscores, enjoy the music player, or, dive on in to the meat of the matter. There’s no story present, and instead, you’re simply thrown into fray with no explanation as to what you’re suppose to be doing. Mercifully, this is actually easy to overlook seeing as how there’s really only two things that you can do; aim and shoot.

Using a combination of the thumbsticks, you’ll traverse a tight and confined space as you blast your way through the waves. Now, there’s no checkpoints here, meaning that when you die, you’ll start over from scratch. Each level plays out in the same fashion. You’ll start with limited health and will be tasked with surviving a single minute before being shoehorned onto the next area. The game’s UI is kept relatively clutter-free. Both time and health are charted alongside your current level, your current score, and a score modifier.

The score and the score modifier will rise as you blast more foes in rapid succession, which naturally determines your place on the highscore board when you eventually bite the dust. There are portals that you need to be mindful of on each level, and this is where the majority of your enemies will spawn from. More portals are introduced as progression is made, ensuring that the action picks up at a decent pace. Super Space Serpent SE starts out quite easy, but before long, it’s clear that this game is certainly one for the hardcore fans.

You’ll always start each run with the same limited health, which tends to allow you to be struck twice by enemies before being blown to pieces. If you stick through enough waves, you’ll be afforded the opportunity to increase your health capacity through the occasional pick-up. These are fairly hard to miss, and requite only flying through to obtain. Nevertheless, that’s how the game plays out. You’ll be given a minute to survive each level, and once the timer hits zero, regardless as to how many foes you’ve bested, you’ll move on.

Unfortunately, there’s some poor design choices to contend with throughout. First and foremost, you’re unable to pause the game. In fact, the only way to halt the action is to pull up the guide menu via the Xbox Home Button. Sure, this isn’t a deal breaker, but in 2019, especially for a twin-stick shooter, this is a glaring omission. Secondly, some of the game’s enemies are far too easy to miss even spotting, let alone blasting. You see, the game’s background is bright purple, and that never really alter throughout the experience.

The drawback, however, is that some of the game’s enemies are also bright purple, and oftentimes get lost in transition. It doesn’t help matters that these enemies in particular do not spawn from the aforementioned portal, but instead often just catapult into view from the edges of the screen. I lost track of how many times I died due to this problem, simply because I either couldn’t see them, or, was given little to no reaction time to evade nor destroy. It can be quite jarring, even frustrating, when this happens later on into game.

Outside of that, there’s some localisation issues to contend with, but despite the odd distraction that this presents, I’m not going to hold that against the game in the scoring of this review. Super Space Serpent SE, if anything, is the definition of that “one more go” concept that the classic twin-stick shooters are well known for. With its shortcomings to the side, the game is fairly hard to put down once you’ve got into the groove of things, mostly thanks to how quick-fire it is to dive in, and due to how easy it is to pick up and enjoy.

There’s little depth here, but Super Space Serpent SE isn’t trying to stand out on the merits of innovation. Instead, it just wants to be a game out of its time, and it largely succeeds in doing so. It’s just a shame the aforementioned problems pull it shy of greatness. There’s not that many enemies that you’ll need to be mindful of, but the few on offer do tend to sport their own attack and movement patterns. That being said, they’re never hard to suss out once you witness them, and most can be taken out with a single burst of firepower.

Along the way, you can grab some neat pick-ups to aid you in getting further in. These can be accessed via touching a countdown-box that will typically drop from the top of the screen to the bottom. This box counts up from one to nine, and depending on what number is present once you touch it, determines what pick-up you’ll get from the box. This can range from a useful addition to your firepower; such as the mighty powerful triple gun, to something less helpful; such as blurring your screen so that you can barely see what’s what.

To be expected, pick-ups do not carry over from wave to wave. Should you make it far enough into the game, you’ll eventually come up against the game’s boss encounters. These bouts are quite tough, and often rely on timing and precision above all else. The first boss, for instance, is that of a large face that will fire projectiles at you from a distance before moving in, allowing you to pop off a few shots of your own. These can be quite tense, but they succeed in not only breaking up the basic flow, but changing up the pace of play too.

When all is said and done, and for its generous cost, there’s a fair amount of content and replay value here to keep you going for a few hours. Hopefully we see the developer amending some of the problems in a post-launch patch, but even if that doesn’t happen, Super Space Serpent SE is one I can comfortably recommend to fan of the genre. In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, the game gets a safe pass. Everything is well presented and sounds decent, if indeed somewhat lacking in quality and overall refinement.

Conclusion

This, at very best, is a decent take on the arcade days of old. It’s a game in which you’re merely dropped into progressively difficult bouts of twin-stick shooting mayhem. Nothing more, and nothing less. Whilst appealing more to the hardcore player than the casual player, and despite a very straightforward structure, some poor design choices, and a few localisation issues, Super Space Serpent SE really isn’t half bad.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • Easy to pick up and enjoy.
  • Interesting mechanics.
  • Decent boss encounters.
Bad
  • Some poor design choices present.
  • Quite straightforward.
6
Okay
Gameplay - 6
Graphics - 6
Audio - 6
Longevity - 6
Written by
Howdy folks! Now, as of July 23rd, 2019, I no longer operate here at Xbox Tavern. It was one hell of a ride; creating this, building this, and operating it for several years, but, we all hit a proverbial point that encourages us to move on, and that's what I've done; handing the reigns to the very capable Jamie. Want to keep in touch? My Gamertag is Kaloudz Peace! Love to you all, Mark!

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