The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Black Rock Shooter's release sneaked up on me. The project
was originally announced by NIS America back in 2011, but the company hasn't
said much about it since then. As time went on, a western launch looked bleak,
but NIS America announced a release date at the beginning of April, and by the
end of the month, Black Rock Shooter was out on the Playstation Store. Was the under-the-radar
title worth the wait? Black Rock Shooter does exactly what a handheld title
should with its short missions and accessible-yet-deep gameplay, while still
surprising me with an intriguing and touching narrative. Imageepoch's latest
provided me more than I expected in terms of entertainment, but it's not
The narrative starts off slow and dull, throwing you in
battle and hoping the firearms are engaging enough. The titular character (yes,
she's named "Black Rock Shooter") has piercing eyes, wears all black, carries a
gigantic gun, and rides a motorcycle. While she has a tough exterior, there's
not much going on in the personality department, since she's suffering from
amnesia. Black Rock Shooter was created as a weapon, but whether or not she is
human is a question the game explores.
Though the plot is initially disappointing, I was hooked
once the twists started appearing. The tale takes some tragic turns, and makes
you empathize with Black Rock Shooter. Harsh and heartwarming at the same time,
the narrative depth is impressive for its short duration (I beat the game in a
little under 10 hours).
Combat consists of Black Rock Shooter engaging enemies on
the battlefield that charge straight at her. The action-oriented battles
revolve around attacking, dodging, and guarding, forcing you to properly manage
all three of these abilities. Spamming attack and dodge causes you to overheat,
which prevents any actions from being taken, meaning you have to approach
This balancing act makes combat tense, forcing you to adjust
strategies on the fly. On the other hand, being punished for using defensive
abilities effectively is frustrating, especially considering that some enemies
strike with multiple attacks that require repeated dodging. Thankfully, the
other skills you unlock don't contribute to overheating, but they do operate on
cooldown timers. These useful powers prevent battles from becoming drawn-out by
letting you do things like negating attacks for a time or hitting multiple enemies
with a powerful strike.
Black Rock Shooter features six stages, each consisting of
about six missions. As a bonus, stages have side missions - mostly killing a
certain enemy a set amount of times - which unlock better skills. Some of these
can be cleared during regular play, though others require backtracking through
the same dreary stages.
The experience gets repetitive fast. Enemies lack variety,
and missions revolve around the same objectives - either chasing a character,
destroying generators, or blasting through minibosses. You don't even have much
incentive to explore outside of a few stray chests, making the gameplay structure
predictable and tiresome. Even levels where you get to drive a motorcycle lose
I found regular battles fairly easy, but boss battles gave
me the challenge I was looking for, forcing me to stay a step ahead of my enemy
and anticipate their attacks. Dodging at just the right moment before a massive
attack hit and escaping death by milliseconds is thrilling. The frenzied
battles held my attention and I learned quickly that a lack of focus could cost
you a victory. Alongside the late
character interactions, boss battles are where the game shines. Too bad the
same creativity and unpredictability doesn't extend to the regular battles.
Black Rock Shooter is competent at what it does and, for the
most part, entertaining to play. However, it could use a bit more polish and imagination
in its design. It doesn't turn the genre on its head, but with my guns blazing
through the chaos, I found a more meaningful story than I expected.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.