Game Review #367: Q-YO Blaster (Nintendo Switch)
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Reviewer: John B Developed By: Team Robot Black Hat Published By: Forever Entertainment Category: Arcade, Action Release Date: 06.27.19 Price (At Time of Review): $9.99
Buy Q-YO Blaster from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
There are a few easy ways to explain the subject of today’s review, Q-YO Blaster for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a horizontal, side-scrolling shoot ‘em up with a variety of characters and special abilities from which to choose. But that all makes the game sound a little too typical, which I guess the gameplay is, but the stuff around the gameplay? The setup, backstory, and graphics? Yeah, that’s where the game gets weird. The ad copy focuses on the game’s “peculiar characters, strange enemies, bullets, many bullets, and many explosions,” which again doesn’t quite explain how bizarre the game’s sense of storytelling and visual aesthetic get, but it’s a start, so let’s start the review.
A Pleasantly Buggy Experience
After a few playthroughs, Q-YO Blaster’s storyline seems fairly basic; a meteor full of insect aliens crashes into the earth, and a brigade of miniature heroes has to stop it. The cutscenes, though, I mean, just… what? I’m assuming the game is intentionally written to create the impression that it was very poorly translated, but even if that’s the case the story events are pretty random. Characters are introduced and killed off for dramatic(?) effect, the enemy bosses have no development, and neither do the heroes. And yet! I found myself smiling through the whole thing. The random nature of the storyline and its absolute commitment to not making any kind of sense are remarkably endearing. The game’s also pretty short – just ten stages – so it’s not like the story was ever going to have time to breathe. It’s better just to do something attention-grabbing and amusing with the time you have.
Miniature Heroes, Assemble! And Then Fight Individually
The gameplay is fairly typical of a horizontal shmup. The screen scrolls from right to left and enemies appear along the sides of the screen. You’ve got to shoot them down using either your character’s main weapon or one of the special weapons or abilities you can acquire throughout the game. You can get a rapid-fire machine gun or spread shot in all modes, and newer weapons are available as you increase the difficulty, like drones that automatically fire for you. I found that be a pretty cool way to increase replayability, since the increased difficulty and new weapons made for some new strategies, even if they kind of all boil down to “don’t get shot.”
Speaking of replayability, there are sixteen playable characters, each with different stats, so they all kind of play differently. Every character has a one to three bar rating in power, speed, and fire (rate of fire). Personally, I found that characters with higher speed were pretty much necessary to be any good at the game. Slow characters were often too slow to dodge practically anything, which for me made those characters completely unplayable. Power was preferable to a high rate of fire, as well, but your mileage may vary. Characters come in three main special power types; blood power, boom, and microwave. As you kill enemies, your special power bar fills up and activates automatically. I found microwave to be the best choice, as it erected a shield around my character temporarily.
In terms of active special abilities, you have two that you can activate. First, you have your pulse charges. You can carry a maximum of three, and using one turns all of the enemy projectiles on the screen into gems, which you can collect to charge your special attack. Enemies also drop gems whenever they are destroyed. At the beginning of each game, you can choose whether you want the super laser or shield ability. The super laser is a very powerful attack that not only does a ton of damage, but destroys any projectiles in its path as well. The shield is a little more passive, as it just stops bullets. Personally, my favorite combo is the microwave class of character with the super laser ability. I always found the extra damage that the laser does to be more useful than a shield, but I still liked having the shield.
The Dirty Dozen… and 4 More
Graphically, Q-YO Blaster is a great 16-bit throwback. The character models, enemy models, and backgrounds are all fantastically detailed and attractively colorful and cartoonish. The outlandish design of the playable characters is a particular high point of the game for me. From hamster-with-a-jetpack Mr. Cheeks, to the many, many magical girls, to Neron, the severed dog head that shoots eyeballs and has trails of blood instead of fire for his jet exhaust. And that doesn’t even get into the panda with a beanie, the cassette-tape shooting robot, or the Iron Man cat. I love the cast of characters in this game, whether the story develops them or not.
In addition to its great graphical presentation, Q-YO Blaster has a pretty fantastic retro-inspired soundtrack. The music is fast-paced and light, which fits the game perfectly. The soundtrack consists mostly of electronic songs, not quite chiptunes, but definitely all synthetic. It incorporates a lot of spooky, wavy sounds, which makes the whole thing seem kind of like an old sci-fi B-movie from the fifties or sixties. The mix of eerie sounds and modern electronic beats made for a unique, engaging soundtrack that capped off a pretty fun experience.
Sometimes things are too weird to be good; some things are too good at being weird for it to matter. Q-YO Blaster fits into the latter camp. While I suppose the story could use a little cleaning up, it was still kind of a nice nostalgia blast; it brought me back to the days of hastily translated action games from the 16-bit era. The bonkers character designs are absolutely delightful, even if some characters’ stat sheets make them nigh unplayable (for me, anyway). The graphics and music are extremely well-crafted, and the gameplay, while it doesn’t break any new ground, is competently implemented, making for a very fun experience.
Buy Q-YO Blaster from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Forever Entertainment