|a game by||Mountain King Studios|
|Editor Rating:||6/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||6.0/10 - 1 vote|
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This game is a real throwback to the classic 2D vertically-scrolling shooter. The top games in the area have been Apogee's Raptor and Epic Games' Tyrian, but DemonStar tops both. Scott Host and Mountain King Studios, the designers of the game, have a lot of experience in this area: they were the ones who programmed Raptor for Apogee, and prior to that in the early 1990s Scott Host led Cygnus Software in the creation of a popular shareware game calledGalactix.
In an era where we have full 3D action shooters with astonishing hardware-accelerated graphics (such as Blue Byte's Extreme Assault and Interplay's SWIV 3D), you might well ask why the 2D overhead vertical and horizontal scrolling shooters don't just die a quiet death. The reason is that games like DemonStar can provide a level of frenzied blasting action unmatched by anything in full 3D. The number of enemies on the screen at any one time, and the complexity of their maneuvers, simply remains unmatched.
The story in DemonStar is quite straightforward, as is typical of this game genre. You play a test pilot flying the RaptorX spaceship for the Quizar in fighting the evil Xidus Armada (who first surfaced in Galactix). This enemy has built a DemonStar empire that attacks anything in sight, and you must destroy it or die.
You can control the gameplay in DemonStar with either a keyboard or a joystick (not a mouse), but it is the Microsoft Sidewinder Gamepad (for which there is special built-in support) that seems to be the best input device. All the controls are extremely intuitive, and there are not a lot of complicated buttons to remember to play the game.
The play itself is fast and furious, more frenetic than in any other shooter I have seen. All the motion is very fluid and not at all jerky. You are frequently shot not only from above, but also from the side or below, and to say that you must have good hand-eye coordination to win is an understatement. Fortunately, there are difficulty choices ranging from easy to insane to cover a wide spectrum of user abilities. The enemies' artificial intelligence seems quite effective in providing a challenge at any level of difficulty. While there is no multiplayer networked capability, two players can play at once, and the action never seems to get boring or repetitive. The 18 levels of the game get progressively more difficult, but contain distinctive innovations that keep the excitement relentless.
Despite the absence of 3D hardware acceleration, the graphics in this game are excellent. The vehicles are displayed in a more crisp, detailed, and textured manner than any of the earlier 2D shooters. The explosions are simply gorgeous to behold. The backgrounds of the levels are quite varied and are also very nicely done. The "boss" enemies at the end of each level reflect beautiful artwork and enormous creativity. While the game runs in both windowed and full-screen mode, at high resolutions (I run my desktop at 1024 by 768 pixels), the full-screen mode makes visuals much easier to see.
The music in this game is composed by the well-known Bobby Prince, who contributed the audio to both Duke Nukem 3D and Doom (among many other prominent games). It is rousing and engrossing, and it definitively sets the mood for the game. The sound effects in the game are extremely clear and crisp, if not truly innovative.
The manual is absolutely the skimpiest CD jewel case manual I have ever seen -- only 4 pages long. But what is there is useful and clear, and for this kind of game there is little need for extensive documentation.
System Requirements and Comments
The minimum requirements for this game are a Pentium CPU, 8 MB of RAM, a PCI VGA-compatible video card, and the Windows 95 operating system. A CD-ROM drive is required for installation, but the full game takes up less than 25 megabytes. These requirements are extraordinarily low by today's standards.
All the emphasis in DemonStar is on great gameplay rather than on extraneous fluff. So there are no full-motion videos to interrupt the action, no "stores" where you can upgrade your ship, and no bars or command centers where you can talk over progress with comrades or superiors. But that is what I like so much about DemonStar -- it has a single-minded fixation with adrenaline-pumping shooting action at the expense of anything else. While I cannot imagine a better game of this type ever being released, I worry that this may be the last of a dying breed. For those who want a "blast from the past" that will truly rip you away from the glitzy but often unexciting releases these days, give DemonStar a try -- you may become permanently hooked as I have.