Reviews

Lumbarjack – Really Big Sky

Really Big Sky was released towards the end of 2011, but with the advent of Steam Trading Cards it has been given new life.

Thanks to that compulsive, reptilian part of my brain I’ve dived back into Really Big Sky to get ALL OF THE CARDS, so while I’m being manipulated by trinkets, I might as well be of use to you and tell you all about it.

Really Big Sky is a gorgeous, fast, brightly-coloured, twin-stick shoot-em-up with as much charm as it has enemies on the screen. Really Big Seizure Warning would perhaps have been a more accurate name – and how they managed to get away without including one is beyond me – but beyond the bright lights and strobing colours is a compelling shmup with just the right mix of retro and modern aesthetics.

There’s no story to speak of, no lore, all you know is that “They’ve given you really splendid space ship – they’re not expecting it back”, and with that you’re hurtling through space decimating bright little shapes that probably don’t want to kill you, but they’re following orders, and they’ve got a family and they really need this job.

What Really Big Sky does have, is an interesting mechanic involving a drill. Generally in shmups, environmental hazards are there to be dodged, but Boss Baddie say bollocks to that and give you the ability to transform your ship into a warp-speed, mining drill so you can hurtle straight through entire planets, collecting power-ups on your way through. But it’s not just for planet-cracking, it’s also used sparingly, but interestingly, in combat as well, will mini-bosses that require you to drill through an outer shell so you can damage the power core within, or bosses that will crush you if you aren’t quick enough to drill into them.

Admittedly, the game would still play more or less the same without the addition of the drill mechanic, but it’s an interesting twist to a genre that can seem rather staid.

One of the things I quite like is that Really Big Sky doesn’t take itself too seriously. It takes itself seriously enough for a fast-paced, neon-bright shmup, but you get the distinct sense from the voice over that the dev had a lot of fun when making the game.
Some of it is diegetic narration/announcing, some of it is almost-conversational, and other bits are just charmingly funny. The few bars of the Jurassic Park theme he hums when you come across fire-spitting dinosaur skulls put a big, stupid grin on my face the first time I heard it, and there are other similarly delightful bits of voice over throughout.

Really Big Sky has some issues though. The framerate can drop steeply when the number of enemies and effects on screen gets a little out of hand, and that’s on a PC that shouldn’t have that issue if the System Requirements are anything to go by. There are also occasional indefinable deaths, where either you have no idea what it might have been that killed you, or that particular fate was unavoidable thanks to either the aforementioned effects on screen or related framerate drops.

If you aren’t a fan of twin-stick shooters, then Really Big Sky isn’t going to change your mind. It’s still a shmup through-and-through, but it is a fantastic one, with more wit and charm than most.

Recommendations:

  • Gamepad – ‘Nuff said. They aren’t called twin-stick shooters for nothing.
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