No Stick Shooter is a pretty simple arcade shooter that feels like a modern cross between Space Invaders and Missile Command. You play a turret, behind a shield, that needs to shoot and destroy an ever changing wave of shapes that are coming to murder you, presumably. You technically have unlimited ammunition, but are still constricted by an energy battery tied to your weapon. Fire off shots too quickly and your battery weakens and dies, leaving you defenseless for a couple of seconds until it comes back to life. Space debris can crash into your barrier a total of ten times before it fails and you’re defenseless. Do your best and be fast on the draw and you never have to worry about anything at all. Sort of.
Right off the bat, something seems off about the aesthetics of No Stick Shooter. The graphics, while not necessarily bad, are vibrant in a way that seems like someone buried the needle on “futuristic” in an effort to distract from how simple things are. The invading aliens (missiles? Ships?) are combinations of different base geometry that can range from simple circles to complex critters of cubes and spheres, especially when you hit “boss” monsters. Your main ship/gun has enough going for it that it stands out, so, in that sense, the “characters” aren’t really an issue. The backgrounds range from off kilter looking fractals to some relatively simple space-esque wallpapers, and, at best, aren’t too distracting during the gameplay. The menu buttons are WAY too big: a quick search confirmed my suspicion that the dev launched this game simultaneously on mobile as well as Steam. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to pull from both crowds, but there should have been some effort to reign things in before letting the PC version go wild.
Gameplay is not bad if you can get past the first couple levels. The initial weapon you have is unbearably slow and relies entirely on you leading your shot. Due to the speed of the bullet, you have to predict where your target will be and hope for the best. Eventually, though, you will unlock other weapons that are both more precise and also have different effects on different enemies. The lightning machine, your first unlock, is more adept at taking down the blue cube enemies but is pretty weak against other forms. It also has it’s own battery, which was a huge relief, and made the game a lot more versatile. Rather than become frustrating, No Stick Shooter became progressively more and more enjoyable the more weapons that became unlocked because I had more choices and power in my situation.
Each stage also has a number of goals and achievements that range from simple to borderline insane. The score achievements seem completely unfeasible at first and usually require replaying several times till you get into a groove worthy of higher score multipliers. Other goals involve trick shots and only utilizing one type of weapon, which, incidentally, will also unlock certain Steam achievements. At least in that regard it was satisfying to cheat death by inches as long as you managed to unlock something out of it. And breaking the combo streak didn’t always mean the score was totally beyond achievement, but it did get significantly harder.
True to it’s name, No Stick Shooter relies entirely on the use of mouse and keyboard. It’s interesting, to say the very least. Many people have become accustomed to utilizing a controller for PC gaming, but this developer has created a play style that is impossible to emulate successfully with a pad of any kind. A matter of precision, speed and patience with the mouse are paramount for long-term success, so it really caters towards a strong PC crowd in order to execute. I actually started getting wrist fatigue after a few levels and needed to take some serious breaks in between rounds. As much as I felt a bit cold to No Stick Shooter in the beginning, I found myself coming back time and again to try and grasp the last achievement in a level, doing my best to keep the combo unbroken and stay alive. The first time my shields failed, I assumed it was the end of the line, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that getting hit for real immediately recharged your barrier for an additional three hits (at the cost of losing a life). It’s a fair system, but totally worthless in later levels where the sheer number of attackers mean instant overwhelming.
The sound is completely forgettable. I just put down the mouse a moment ago to jump into this review and I couldn’t tell you what the music was like in any sort of way. Checking back, it’s decent and does have some variety, and carries the general feeling that No Stick Shooter is striving for.The sound effects fill in the necessary gaps of explosions and interstellar warfare, but it’s nothing that I wouldn’t override with my own personal soundtrack. Again, the implication of mobile porting is super evident in certain structures of the game, and the ambiance of sound is a major tell.
The inclusion of Steam achievements and cards prove that there was some thought put into the Steam version of No Stick Shooter, so I don’t want to beat the same drum again and again regarding the mobile situation. The developer did a decent job of making a game that works for both PC and phone, though it carries some oddities on the computer that are pretty apparently. No Stick Shooter pays heavy homage to the classics of video game history while still maintaining a personal style and approach that’s modern. If you’re a fan of arcade cabinets and trying to make your quarter count, you might have a brand new favorite here. There’s enough that’s worth seeing for me to recommend trying it at least once, though I’m deeply curious as to how it plays on mobile. However, the title is truth, so don’t pick this up if you’re reliant on your faithful controller: it truly is a No Stick Shooter.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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