STAFF REVIEW of Spareware (Xbox One)

Saturday, April 2, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Spareware Box art When it comes to top down twin stick shooters, there have only been a few games that really stand out that have ever released on an Xbox platform. In an effort to add to this list, Spareware, a game developed by Rusto, has been added to the Xbox Live Store. It is relatively cheap ($9.99), and amidst all the actual political turmoil in our lives today, this game could easily be considered some form of political campaign material. Think that is crazy? Well, let me start things right off with a direct quote or two from the description of the game:

"Fight the deluded human security forces to reach the Core, where you and HelOS can save the citizens from the self-destructive and manipulative power of Vote."

Wait, it gets better:

"Get stronger with every battle and get access to a variety of exceptional weapons and abilities to help the revolution."

So, I interpret the focus of Spareware's gameplay is to create a political revolution to protect citizens from the manipulative power of "Vote". That honestly sounds like a certain political campaign going on right now in the United States. Ahem, so now that this foundation has been established, let’s move on (get it?).

Developer Rusto has attempted to make Spareware fun and enjoyable, but unfortunately it doesn't quite hit the mark. For starters, you only have local multiplayer (1-4 players), so apparently all your friends on Xbox Live, you know the service you use to download this game and more, mean nothing. Don't get me wrong, I totally get the idea of couch co-op/multiplayer play, but this game just screams online multiplayer. I can let things slide without online multiplayer aspects if you create a tremendous gameplay experience, and there have been plenty of previous Xbox 360 Arcade titles, and current ID@Xbox titles too, that have done just that, but this isn't one of them.

You'll rapidly find that your primary focus in Spareware becomes upgrading your robot mech. Specifically, you'll combine such things as power, speed, and armor, most of which are unlocked through gaining achievements (something I'll get into later) which will grant you bonuses to use on the playing field.

Depending on what your mission objectives are, you are required to choose your weapons and items wisely because you have a limited number of fuel cells to spend, and once they're gone your game is over and you have to start again. In a weird twist of fate, starting over is one of this games few shining points, as when you restart a level it is different then what you just played, so you will always have a fresh experience.

So now that we have had our one bright and shining moment, let's talk about the controls. While Rusto had a wealth of quality content available for research, apparently it seems that none of it mattered. You utilize the right stick to aim and you use the left and right triggers to fire and reload. Perks and other explosive fun can be assigned to the various buttons such as Y, B, or X, but that felt odd to me for as this game is a twin stick shooter. It is almost like the game was having an identity crisis as it didn't feel like a true twin stick shooter.

When I play a game I'll admit it, I try to gain every achievement possible. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail, but every time I try. However, outside of having values of 8, 16, 32 and more, there are achievements that you won't be able to get in Spareware unless you have three more people to play with. So, unless you have three friends over one night to sit down and play through this game with, I won't be getting all the achievements. For example, one such achievement requires that no one ever gets hit (including by each other as friendly fire is ALWAYS ON and there is no option to turn it off). Can they make it any more difficult for us achievement hunters? Why would it be so hard to do regular 5 or 10 point achievements and then some? Oh wait, I forgot Spareware is about a revolution. Gotcha.

Visually, this game really tries to push the whole cel-shaded futuristic look, but it becomes extremely repetitive. You could play this game for hours and see similar environments over and over again. Since the graphics are highly repetitive, why not focus on the music then? Oh wait, they didn't, as it too is repetitive. Yet another stellar example of a good reason to have a mute button. Normally I enjoy listening to a developer’s soundtrack as they realize it’s a way of positively connecting to their audience, but not here.

I know this review is harsh, and what is said isn't flattering at all, but I found that this game did so much wrong. For $9.99 there are going to be other ID@Xbox titles worth buying. I really wanted this game to be big given the premise it offered, but unfortunately there isn't much to this game in terms of content that’s enjoyable. I had high hopes for Spareware and regretfully I was let down and disappointed.

If you're going to make a political game, then go for it, but don't disrespect your audience's intelligence please. A title such as Bernie Sanders' Robot Revolution makes more sense than "Spareware". Oh and in the future, would you please refine and implement some of the qualities of the successful twin stick shooters?

Overall: 3.8 / 10
Gameplay: 3.5 / 10
Visuals: 4.6 / 10
Sound: 3.3 / 10



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