That's right. From out of nowhere, harder than Battletoads, Gauntlet and Silver Surfer (way harder than Silver Surfer) comes Starship Hector, a game you may not have even heard of before, but a game that is absolutely brutally hard.
Our list thus far has been a good blend of action/adventure games (including platformers), puzzle games, and, of course the scrolling shooter. There are no two ways about it, scrolling shooter games are tough. They feature lots of enemies attacking from many directions, many obstacles to avoid, and fast paced action that puts your reflexes to the test. Starship Hector is a game that exemplifies the form and demonstrates just how difficult the scrolling shooter can be.
A hidden gem in the vast, offbeat, and incredibly diverse Hudson library, Starship Hector doesn't really offer us anything new in the genre, but it shines a bright light on many of the smart things about scrolling shooters. For starters, the game features dual level battle. You will face foes both in the air and on the ground and you must attack each with a different weapon. Again, not new, we've seen this in games like Fantasy Zone, AD&D Dragonstrike, and Super Cobra. But in SH it is done in a way that makes the game viciously difficult. There are times when 85% of the attacks are coming from the ground. Then, from out of nowhere an aerial bombardment begins, or a killer mini-boss pops up and wipes you out. SH comes at you from both levels full tilt and right from the very beginning of the game. There is no learning curve in Starship Hector, you just have to be good, immediately. And just hitting A and B at the same time doesn't cut it, smart guy. The enemies in this game take multiple hits to kill, so a blanket strategy will not yield you many kills. You'll have to make tough decisions about which targets are priority and which are less deadly. And you will have plenty of targets to choose from. Starship Hector has no shortage on enemies. There are times when the screen is filled with land and air targets. You will be wishing for the slow, plodding, methodical enemies of Silver Surfer.
Starship Hector also features vertical and horizontal scrolling much like in Legendary Wings. But unlike many games with this aspect, SH demonstrates mastery of both styles. You will not get a break when the direction of the scroll changes like you will in some games which have a clear bias toward one style or the other. SH beats you both ways and smiles while it happens. (I would love to give you a screenshot of this, but in going back and trying to get screenshots I was not able to clear level 1, and I played for about 30 mins.)
|Bomb the statue, or kill the two squid things?|
But Starship Hector will not give you that time. It will beat you down, over and over, with endless waves of enemies great in number and power. And even though you have a hit point meter, some enemies hit so hard, and others so often, that having a lot of HP will not really save your ass during a thick spot. Your only hope is to learn the levels inside and out and hone your reflexes until you are like a cat who is also a ninja.
In five hours, I did make it to level 3 a couple of times, but it was not easy and I didn't last long. Starship Hector features six levels. While I cannot see a huge increase in difficulty from level to level, if the remaining levels are as hard as levels 1 and 2, then this game might be impossible to beat. Oh, someone out there can probably beat it, as with any game, but Starship Hector is not for the feint of heart. Of the 29 games I played for this project, it is second only to our final game, to be announced tomorrow. Can you stand it?