Linux Game Review: Sun Blast

Remember those insane arcade games that kept you up all night, blasting away at ship after ship, leading up to a showdown with a massive star destroyer that relentlessly hurled various dangerous objects at you? More than likely, the game you remember offered a 2D top-down or side-scrolling view of space. But now take a moment to imagine all of that in 3D.

Sun Blast is a cross-platform, independent game from OBLONE Software that offers you exactly that experience. With it, you will feel like you are immersed in the arcade action, as space debris, enemy vessels, and menacing star ships all take aim at you.

Background and Features

The game begins with a story intro, where you will immediately feel like you are back at your mother’s house playing Super Nintendo for the first time. Rather than the ever-popular voice-over acting, Sun Blast tells its story in text, and it revolves around some kind of invasion of enemy forces threatening to blow up the sun, or something along those lines. But let’s face it, you will not play this game for the story, so onward to the action.

The visual setting for the game is simply stunning. Like most native Linux games, you can configure the game to your monitor’s optimal resolution, providing you with HD graphics. The sound effects and music are appropriately intense, assisting the visuals in the immersion effect.

Sun Blast invasion screenshot

For the game, you can choose from three different ships, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Enemies include small star ships, large star ships at the end of some levels, and the environment itself, which often necessitates a lot of dodging.

Gameplay

Although the visual appearance of Sun Blast is impressive, its strength is the gameplay. For control you can choose to play with the keyboard or a Nintendo Wii remote. Yes, you read correctly. All you need is a bluetooth adapter, and you can rather easily connect your Wii remote and start playing.

There are two Wii settings: the one-handed remote control style, and a two-handed, sideways gamepad style. Both require you to move the Wii remote to control the ship. The movement is smooth and fluid, although making sharp movements too far in one direction can cause the Wii remote to momentarily go off track (something that happens even on the Wii itself).

Sun Blast Wii remote settings

Because of the nostalgia Sun Blast evoked, I found myself wishing I could use a traditional controller, but Sun Blast does not come with joystick support. After programming my gamepad to work with it, however, I found holding the Wii remote sideways to be more enjoyable and actually easier to control.

Like any space shooter, the game requires a lot of button pressing, but it also gives you the option to use “autofire”. As you navigate through a level, you are presented with power-ups that afford you with new weapons, increased shield, or a speed boost. Noticeably absent are any power-ups for replenishing life, which means you have to be extra careful. To that end, there are no additional lives at all, which is starkly different from those old Nintendo games, especially those where you could cheat and gain more lives.

To complete a level, you may need to destroy a fixed number of ships, elude objects until the clock runs out, or simply survive until the end. At the end of each level, you can unlock new challenges that provide additional gameplay and also unlock wallpapers you can download from the game developer’s website.

Sun Blast survival level

The one downside I found to Sun Blast was the lack of any save feature. Without multiple lives and no ability to save, you must play a relatively perfect game and do it all in one sitting in order to be successful. For casual gamers like me, that is just not possible. After you defeat the first big starship in level 4, the game will give you the option to continue if you, for example, die on level 6, but you will have to go back and play the previous level again. Fail to get past level 4, and you will have to go through the first three again. This repetition will remind you why games evolved beyond the arcade games that Sun Blast reminded you of in the first place.

Sun Blast starship destroyed screen shot

Overall Impressions

Sun Blast is very polished graphically, and the gameplay immerses you in the experience, even providing Wii remote force feedback at the appropriate impacts and explosions. While the lack of a save feature keeps it from being a casual “little bit at a time” game, the unlockable challenges add value and longevity.

The Wii remote feature is definitely one of Sun Blast’s strongest assets, and the $9.95 price is the best feature of all. The one-time purchase gives you access to all OS versions of the game, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and PC-BSD. A demo version is also available and you can play it first before you make a purchase. Sun Blast gets four galactic star explosions out of five.

Visit Sun Blast’s website