After the success of Geometry Wars, it seems that top down shooters are all the rage at the moment. At first glance, Shred Nebula looks like yet another clone trying to cash in on the craze – but this new addition to the XBLA line-up has its own modus operandi.
The fact that both these games take place in space and are top-down shooters are really the only similarities between the two. Shred Nebula could be better associated with the retro classic arcade title “Asteroids” rather than the multi-directional shooting frenzy of Geometry Wars. This is because Shred Nebula only requires one analogue stick for the controls and like Asteroids, your ship can only fire in the direction it’s facing. This ensures that your piloting skills are vital to a successful dogfight. The controls are easy to pick-up too, with the left stick being used for movement and the forward and reverse thrusters are controlled by the left trigger and shoulder button respectively. Weapons and shields are accessible via the right trigger and usual X, Y, A, B buttons depending on what kind of ship you are flying.
There are eight types of craft to chose from, each one featuring their own strengths and weaknesses. Some readers will raise an eyebrow at this point, remembering games where one player could dominate with one ship that was completely unbalanced (ie: in Accolade’s “Star Control”). But developers Crunchtime Games had James Goddard in their ranks – a lad who started his career off working on the Street Fighter franchise with Capcom. Using his experience, Shred Nebula’s line-up of ships are all asymmetrical in the way that certain ships will be stronger or weaker depending on their opponent’s ship type. Because of this, players will need to become familiar with the whole line-up of crafts in order to play to the best strategic advantage over each one. Ships can deploy things like counter-measures against heavy missiles, use tractor beams to slow down fast moving units, activate shields and so fourth. When played properly, most people will find that all the ships have something to offer and will want to mix it up rather than use the same favourite everytime.
The graphics in Shred Nebula are a great tribute to the classic arcade games of its type, but obviously all of the visuals have been given that next-gen gloss. The maps are fairly large and although they appear open-ended, there are invisible barriers preventing you from leaving the action area too far, but still gives players enough room to flee and recover as well. Each map has attractive layered backgrounds and the galaxy is filled with power-ups and even hazardous obstacles that you’ll need to keep an eye out for. Throughout the maps you’ll encounter space debris and floaty structures, which can be used for cover or to duck between for a quick getaway – but sadly there aren’t any destructive elements to the environment that could really shake up the gameplay.
For those people who felt that Galaxy Wars was just too much (I don’t think my eyeballs have been the same since), Shred Nebula could be just the game you’ve been waiting for. It features some classic nostalgia from the 80’s, a fair amount of strategy mixed with skill and is pretty addictive – especially in online multiplayer where you can have four player dogfight mayhem.