Super Weekend Mode is a tricky one to review. On the one hand, it’s not trying to be anything other than what it is. On the other hand, it’s not really fun, and in fact, it’s more frustrating than anything else. Still, for those that are seeking classic arcade gaming in its purest form, you’re unlikely to scoff at what’s on offer. Furthermore, it’s Ratalaika, if you’re here just for the easy Gamerscore, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s as straightforward as ever. There’s not much of a premise present, hell, it’s absolutely bare-bones in that regard.
The backdrop tells of a thief (otherwise known as “That Guy”) that’s stolen a princess’ wares, and taking on the role of said princess, you set off to take it all back. That’s it. Booting up the game takes you to a very clean menu, in which the only notable options are to either begin the game or browse the tutorial. The game’s tutorial does a fair job at feeding you into the basics via a collection of information screens. Here, you’ll learn all about the game’s movement, shooting, progression, hazards, items, and scoring system.
Players control two paddles at the foot of the screen, in which one is tethered to LB, and the other to RB. You’ll move left and right across four columns whilst blasting upwards. You’re free to turn on auto-shot, which will do all the shooting for you, or alternatively, you can opt to manually shoot via the A button. Each level plays out in the same fashion. You’ll begin a level overlooking a large boss, and on top of shooting the boss, you’ll need to collect falling hearts and avoid deadly skulls and dust bunnies – the latter can be crushed with a nudge.
To nudge dust bunnies, you need only smash them with the side of your paddle. Skulls, however, cannot be destroyed. You’ll need to avoid these completely or risk losing a life. Each paddle is stuck to their side of the screen, meaning that you can only individually move them across two columns each. There’s two ways to overcome a level; by dealing enough damage to the boss, or, by collecting as many hearts as you need in order to advance. The kicker, however, is that if you miss hearts, the level will eventually close in and crush you.
Ideally, you’ll want both paddles dishing out damage to the boss. There’s a point system in place that counts down as you collect hearts and hit the boss, and once this reaches zero, you’ll move to the next level. Naturally, when both paddles are firing at the boss, these points will deplete much faster, but, that’s a lot easier said than done. The game’s hearts, skulls, and dust bunnies will constantly rain from the top of the screen, meaning that you’ll need to constantly move each paddle independently to gather hearts and avoid said danger.
The game demands muscle memory and player reflex, which is mandatory if you plan to make it to the latter stages. That is to say that if you suck at multi-tasking, you’re going to have a harder time here than most. Mercifully, there’s a few mechanics in place to aid you along the way. Whenever you begin a new game, you’re given the option to select an outfit and make some gameplay adjustments. The latter of which consists of enabling or disabling the aforementioned auto-shot system, and selecting between three difficulty tiers.
The outfits, however, alter the fields of play. There’s a few to select from, and they’re all quite distinct in their own way. Looking for more of a challenge? The Pew! Pew! Pew! outfit sees bosses gaining more HP than they normally would have. Perhaps you prefer the easier road? The Tank outfit allows the princess to start with a protective barrier, per-paddle. Safe to say, you’ll have no trouble finding an outfit that suits your play-style. Each level takes roughly two to three minutes to complete, with only a handful in total overall.
There’s some replay value to be had via bettering your leaderboard rank, to which Super Weekend Mode instills with simplicity. Each heart collected and shot dealt will net you ten points a piece, with you able to chain points through successive acquisition and constant damage output. This chain will break if you miss, and your points will be reduced to zero upon death. It’s a basic, yet fair system to say the least. Speaking of death, you have three lives to make it through the game with, but you can recoup these as progress is made.
Once you beat a level, and depending on your performance, you’ll be rewarded with a few items before being shoehorned straight into the next level. These items consist of the likes of new lives, barriers, and other useful tidbits. These do indeed carry over from level to level, and you are afforded new items for every level you beat. That, ladies and gents, is the crux of play. You’ll set up your affairs, dive on in, blast, collect, avoid, and move on. Now, at its core, Super Weekend Mode achieves everything that it sets out to accomplish.
However, that doesn’t equate to a good experience. The game’s difficulty, even on its lowest setting, is hella-tough. You’ll need perfect left/right coordination to see this through even just the first few levels. The game has a nasty habit of ridiculously ramping up its difficulty. What starts out a simple case of moving paddles left to right as you collect a small handful of hearts, soon becomes an uphill battle of needing to outmaneuver heaps of bunnies and skulls in the hopes of nabbing a heart before it hits the bottom of the screen.
Further to that, the game tends to pull off some cheap tactics, such as seeing drops making a last second column swap, giving you almost no time to realistically react. Perhaps I’m just bad at the game, but even so, the game’s lack of grip just never encouraged me to improve. That, and it never really evolves its gameplay throughout. You’ll see pretty much everything that the game as to offer from level two onward, ultimately making for a very repetitive trek. Still, that being said, for its cheap cost, it’s an easy gripe to overlook.
The game is clearly trying to emulate classic arcade gaming of the 80s, with its colorful 2D sprite animations and its fairly catchy soundtrack. Collectively, this bolsters the developer’s vision for Super Weekend Mode quite well, but much like the gameplay, it all gets very samey-samey before too long. I fully appreciate that overall, this is the desired intention, but casting aside its eventual irritating play, a repetitive slog is still a repetitive slog. Those that can really appreciate the true retro experience will likely pull the most from this, if little else.
If you’re a fan of retro arcade games and can overlook a few glaring issues, Super Weekend Mode will be right up your street. Everything from its simplistic handling, right up to its colorful sprite animations and its catchy soundtrack, faithfully relays the era that the game is clearly trying to emulate. However, due to its overly repetitive loop, its harsh difficulty, and its reliance on cheap tactics, the whole experience falls short of the mark.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.