Microsoft’s Community Games project has been fairly hit or miss since its inception. Featuring independent titles developed using the Xbox 360’s XNA programming library, the Community Games roster ranges from frustrating examples of poor resource management to surprising hits that wouldn’t seem out of place in the Live Arcade. Centurion Games’ Corsair, a top down shooter of minimal proportions, is an unfortunate contender in the former category, an overly simplistic shoot ’em up title that fails to provide any real enjoyment for the price of admission.
A shooter, also called a shmup, lacking any sort of story or narration, Corsair pits two class or ships against one another in a single stage battle set on repeat. Players have the choice of either piloting one of four different colored fighter ships called Corsairs, or a planet-destroying battleship named the Decimator, which is armed with four rotating turrets and the inability to move more than a few inches in any direction.
After choosing a side players are shown a static image of some distant heavenly body, and then whisked away to the front line of battle. As the game commenced we’re given a top-down view of four Corsair ships blasting away at a Decimator, which is no doubt on its way to destroy the previously mentioned planet. Controlling the fighters, players peck away at the Decimator in hopes of destroying it before the timer atop the screen runs out, at which point we’re given a view of whatever world just bit it Alderaan-style.
Controlling the Decimator, players switch control between each of the four turrets in hopes of warding off the Corsair ships long enough to reach its destination. Success results in the aforementioned Star Wars reference, failure results in another go. Luckily for players though, there is absolutely no difference between winning and losing in terms of game advancement. Corsair consists of a single level replayed until all nine planets have been saved or destroyed, or until the realization that there is no high point of the game and playing a handful of levels isn’t any different than suffering through all of them.
The future is a cold and desolate place.
Unfortunately design isn’t the only simplistic element of Corsair. Visually the game resembles an NES title, which in itself isn’t a bad thing as a Community Game, but save for a few specks meant to pass for fighter ships, a chunky war vessel and the stars streaming by, there isn’t any variety. While the screen does tend to fill with fire from both sides of the fight, any in-game excitement is instantly made frustrating by way of an over-elaborate control scheme, an element that saps any sort of conceivable enjoyment from Corsair.
The shmup genre has garnered some worthy additions these past few years, and with those advancements and current console controller technology, moving a pixelated spaceship about a television screen and firing off a few dozen rounds of brightly colored bullets has never been easier. However, some developers still feel the need to over think the control scheme, and instead of relying on dual analogs for navigation and weapons, we’re given something similar to what Centurion Games implemented in Corsair.
Between both ship types, there’s a brake button, a left and right strafe button, a fire button, an option to rotate a turret, a map of turrets spread across the face buttons, and, oh, a move button. For a Community Game that doesn’t stretch beyond a single stage type or static background image, Corsair sure puts a lot of effort into making the act of actually playing the game as annoying as possible.
When the sweet release of death finally brings the level to a close, it will almost always come as something of a surprise as there is no real life bar or legend on screen to help determine the proximity of victory or defeat. On occasion a static-tinged voice will cry out things like “Alpha is at 40%!” or “There’s no one left!”, but for which side of the fight these announcements are meant for, and what they mean exactly is never clear. Corsair ships tend to stop respawning after a handful of times, but as for the Decimator there’s no real warning, just a vague assumption based on how many blind shots from the fighters hit the near-stationary behemoth.
Unfortunately for those using the Corsair ships, the AI tends to last for a good while after the player has been snuffed out. When not playing with friends, the computer controls the remaining Corsair ships onscreen, attempting to down the Decimator long after the player has lost. While this can sometimes result in passing the stage, we’re only treated to another few minutes of bland space combat.
The package is topped off with a title theme that fits the sci-fi vibe and a sound gallery consisting of generic explosions and the aforementioned awkward voice work that just seems out of place. No surprises whatsoever, a sad consistency for a game lacking in all areas.
Community Games don’t have a lot to live up to, and there isn’t much expectation, so when a title fails to stand out in any way, shape or form it doesn’t hurt as badly as throwing down $60. This is possibly the one positive point that can be made for Corsair, a throwback shooter that fails to emulate even the most generic contenders that came before it. Five dollars rarely feels so wasted.