Once in a while a game comes out with a great concept that the game itself does not fully take advantage of. Shuttle Rush fits this description perfectly as it's a game that most players will want to enjoy but will probably regret downloading.
Shuttle Rush stars a taxman named Bob who tries to collect taxes from a battleship whose residents don't take kindly to his type. He must escape this ship as oxygen quickly leaks from his shabby space suit. It's a funny premise but leaves one wondering why anyone would care about saving a tax collecting cheapskate.
The game is played by running, jumping, and shooting a stun gun to make it past enemies and to the door at the end of each level. This sounds simple enough but Bob doesn't have much of a chance to survive with his oxygen level quickly depleting. However, players can collect coins to redeem at oxygen stations for more time. Even with these stations, the time limits are way too strict and don't allow for much error. The controls are responsive and simple which is necessary for a game that is as intense as this. Enemies cannot kill you as they simply slow you down and get in your way. The game would probably be more enjoyable without any enemies since they're frustrating to deal with and the challenge would still be significant enough without them. If you shoot an enemy with the gun that you acquire early in the game, they will be stunned for about a second and this makes dealing with them a bit easier.
Graphics in Shuttle Rush are okay. The art is well done as Bob looks great in his constant state of panic and the levels are colourful and detailed. When oxygen is about to run out, Bob's head enlarges and eventually bursts which looks hilarious. One huge downside is that platforms and surfaces can be ambiguous. Sometimes you will think something is a platform that you can jump on but it's just a part of the background. Other times you'll hit your head on the ceiling because a platform looks like it's a part of the background. Finally, some inclinations will make you slide down while you can walk on others. The only way to overcome these graphical ambiguities is to memorize each level. Another complaint about the graphics is that you're supposed to be in space yet the levels are surrounded by solid black. Why not put some stars, planets, and ships in the backgrounds to give the feeling that you're actually in space?
The music is pretty cool with a mix of chiptunes, electronic synths, and trippy beats. Sound effects are underwhelming since shooting sounds weak, death isn't as dramatic as it should be, and Bob produces absolutely no sound as he runs and jumps around.
Although Shuttle Rush's concept is enticing, the game fails to execute it well. Games that have a strict time limit where players must rush through levels should be all about reactionary gameplay. However, players can't solely rely on their reactions in Shuttle Rush as they must navigate increasingly complex levels complete with puzzle mechanics such as switches that either open or close doors. The strict time limit combined with these elements makes the game incredibly frustrating. Some levels will have players observe enemies and time when to stun them so they don't trigger switches that close doors while others will have players race enemies while navigating through complex structures. Levels built like this do not offer a rewarding challenge. Instead, they offer nothing but frustration and when you manage to finally complete a level, you will not be happy; you'll just feel angry that you wasted so much time trying. There's nothing worse than being close to the exit while you wait for an enemy to move out of the way only for the time to run out and you have to start the entire level again. The game is simply unfair in the least rewarding sense of the word.
There are two methods to navigate levels. One method is to look at the map while the other is to play the level over and over to memorize it. While looking at a map appears to be the better option, it breaks the momentum of the action while you pause to figure out where to go next. When you unpause, an unskippable countdown occurs to help prepare you to continue the level. Considering how many times you will have to look at the map, this countdown becomes way more annoying than helpful. If I unpause the game then I'm ready to continue playing. I don't need a countdown. Therefore, most players will choose to memorize levels instead which makes the game more like Simon Says than an action platformer.
Players can collect three rewards on each level which consist of finishing the level under a certain time, collecting all of the coins (some of which are hidden very well), and not getting hurt. Simply finishing levels is hard enough so most players won't even bother with these optional rewards. If you manage to collect all of the rewards in a group of levels then you unlock a bonus. Good luck with that. There are also leaderboards to climb although simply finishing a level to show up on the leaderboard is satisfying enough.
Shuttle Rush is a game that has a promising yet horribly executed concept. With excruciatingly difficult and unrewarding gameplay, I can't imagine recommending this game to anyone.
- + Ingenious concept will initially impress players
- + Music and art are pretty cool
- - The concept is poorly executed with a discordant mix of gameplay mechanics
- - Punishingly difficult and unrewarding
- - Level graphics can be ambiguous