Where better to start this series than with a game which wantonly advertises its frugal appeal in its very title? A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! is a Minis release on PSN, an arcade scroller reboot of octogenarian classics of yore like Asteroids and Space Invaders. If the aforementioned oldies did the dirty (which I cannot condone, the whole notion is akin to two OAPs going at it in an old folk’s home. Denture-hickies and wrinkled genitalia akimbo, it’s not a pretty image to dwell upon. Incidentally, disregard the rumours that my internet history is full of such things. It’s scarcely quasi-true, I tell you!), this charming little confection from Frima Studio would be the result.
We are introduced to our protagonist via a retrospective cutscene of a geeky kid being punched in the delicate facial region. In true hilarity-tinged cartoon violence tradition, the blow is so vehement that the meaty bully-fist could penetrate to the optic nerve; whereupon he could stroke it tenderly while cooing at the squelching mound of meaty-viscera-and-miscellaneous-unpleasantness through the gaping fissure in this guy’s ex-face. (But, quite plainly, such fist-happy bastardry doesn’t lend itself to hushed-tones bedtime story pleasantries of this ilk. So the whole situation would be a little disconcerting.) The scene fades to reveal the tormentor has grown into Commander P. Jefferson; still an asshole, but paunchier and older. He has a spaceship with sizable cannons attached. He has a latent hatred of aliens of any and all sorts. He spies some of the aforementioned beings.
You see where this is going.
Such a tenuous catalyst is enough to start your travails in the campaign mode’s galaxy. You select a level from the map, and are instantly beleaguered by fiendish foes. Aesthetically, these guys are rather generic in shooters of this ilk, they’re just diminutive takes on the god-forsaken piece of Satan’s ass-dribble spacecraft that litter 80‘s science fiction. (You know the sort of thing:
“Here’s the prop ship.”
“You’re shitting me. It looks like some kind of monstrous dildo, for a creature with an ungodly set of orifices I can’t even contemplate. Are you drunk again?”
“Why, that’s an eloquent and amusing comment, anonymous guy. And yes, I am. But SILENCE. I’ve painted the damn thing silver, the very prerequisite of spacey-ness. What more do you want?”)
Rather more engaging are the bosses of each stage, which have been fully endowed with their own pernicious persona. There’s a fleeting exchange between your character and this opponent, both before the battle and just preceding their sans-life explosion (upon which he acquires a new special weapon by stealing it from the vanquished villain), and they’re quite amusing. The comedic aspect of A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! lands it squarely in a niche of approximately one. It’s an emphasis that hasn’t been utilised to this extent before, if we aren’t counting fellow PSN Mini Ace Armstrong vs the Alien Scumbags. (Which I vehemently maintain we aren’t. My tenuous ego equilibrium can’t handle that kind of ball-ache again. It’s a pain akin to giving birth to three sets of overweight twins. Simultaneously. Through your penis. So a friend assures me, the poor bastard. You may have seen the newspaper headline, “MAN’S NUTSACK EXPLODES, ENTIRE VON TRAPP FAMILY APPEARS- ‘Thank Jesus’s genitalia it wasn’t me,’ beams proud mother.” That was him. Just for clarification, in the unlikely case such shenanigans needed to be differentiated from a previous, similar incident.)
“Damn right. Incidentally, my facial expression suggests I’m speaking at a dramatically elevated decibel level, but the lack of caps lock in the text provided belies this. To wit: I’m not screaming like the crazy fat bastard I am. Even so, I’m not the kind of guy you want to dick around with -see all those smouldering corpses drifting about the place back there?- so you may wish to step aside. Further, If I may add, your pink ship is hideous. Its shape is reminiscent of the paw of an elderly and effeminate cat. Y’know, an incontinent one that’s flailing a limb ineffectually to say, ‘I’ve pissed on the carpet again, but I can’t be assed to move. I’ll sleep some more, in the warming-yet-moist embrace of urine.”
The sabre-sharp wit of the humour extends to the shop and its proprietor, Jenna Velasquez. Jefferson attempts to come on to her with each visit; while acquiring the typical weapon upgrades, score-boosters and suchlike. The resultant scenes are also amusing, and serve as a canny way to offset these familiar genre-trappings. Indeed, this defines A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! in a nutshell. It revels gleefully in its humble nature and the familiarity of its concept, and has fantastic fun while doing so. With a truly challenging campaign (I’m struggling through ‘wussy’ difficulty like a man-tastic cannonball-testicled colossus), survival mode and array of achievements to earn, you’re sure to as well.
If you aren’t convinced, I’ll exhort you to witness FrimaStudio’s above trailer again.