Ever fantasized about being a cowboy in outer space? Of course you have. Well, now your interstellar sharp-shooting dreams have come true, thanks to the the excellent Western-inspired space shooter, Space Marshals.
In space no one can hear you rustle
Space Marshals is a top-down, dual-stick shooter game that's heaps of fun to play. You take the role of a ranger who has been incarcerated on a space prison, until said prison is hijacked by a bad man who has decided to set all of the convicts free. You then get reinstated as a ranger and, together with your team, must track down the villain and immobilize the fugitives.
Space Marshals plays out as an engaging story over the course of several diverse levels. The idea generally is to creep around buildings and landscapes looking for your target. Along the way you'll need to take out the bad dudes, who look like they've come straight off the set of a Clint Eastwood movie.
There's plenty of stuff to pick up as you move stealthily (or brazenly, if you're feeling reckless) through the level. You'll need to collect ammo, health, and shields to keep you going, as well as extra goodies like temporary camouflage or super speed. Watch out for the clue icons too, as these can be swapped for powerful new weapons if you find them all.
On the subject of weapons, there's a whole arsenal of guns, explosives, and missiles to build up as you progress. You can carry two guns at a time, plus there are slots for throwable objects like rocks and grenades.
Like a moonstone cowboy
Gameplay in Space Marshals is great fun, and there is a tactical side to it. You'll need to carefully creep around enemy encampments, preying on the bad guys while they sleep, or using cover to shield yourself. You'll often need to run back through the level to collect health or ammo if you find a big posse of villains approaching.
The controls themselves are pretty intuitive. You move around with your left thumb and aim with the right, releasing it from the screen to fire. It doesn't take much getting used to and is comfortable enough, although it would be nice if support was added for MFi controllers, as this would really heighten the play experience.
The design of Space Marshals is impeccable, and anyone who has played Reckless Racing games before will recognize Pixelbite's trademark attention to detail in the game's tangible landscapes. Although everything its very small, it's also very gorgeous.
The story and the characters within Space Marshals are imaginatively conceived, and there's lots of humor and personality in the dialog. You really do want to play on to find out how this space epic unfolds and how the tensions between the characters will play out.
Music is used to good effect in the game, and it changes contextually depending on where in the level you are. If you're nearing a room full of tough guys the tension in the soundtrack really reflects this.
Space: the final American frontier
Space Marshals is a gaming masterpiece. It's imaginative, easy to play, and it looks fantastic. If you've ever wondered if a light-hearted, top-down, dual-stick, space western would work as a game genre, the answer is yes, it definitely does.