Steredenn: Binary Stars Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Pixelnest Studio
Publisher: Plug in Digital
Release Date: March 8th 2018
Price as of Article: $12.99 USD, £11.99 GBP
With a name like Steredenn, you may think it sounds like a denture paste that your Nan uses to keep her teeth in, but alas it is not. In fact Steredenn isn’t any kind of bathroom product, it’s actually a shoot ’em up from Pixelnest Studio and published by Plug in Digital. And don’t let the name fool you like it did me, because Steredenn is a fantastic game.
There’s not much of a story to Steredenn: Binary Stars. You’re introduced to the game with a tutorial but that’s it, you’re under attack from a relentless alien fleet who are doing their best to wipe you from existence. After that you’re thrusted right into the action. Many people will be disappointed with this aspect of the game, but its genre as a shooter and rogue-like, it excuses it in my opinion. It’s not a game with an expansive campaign and the random nature of everything makes a story superfluous. The lack of story gets a pass from me.
The music is absolutely sublime. The developers have done their research about what makes awesome shooter music and they’ve cracked it. With some heavy rock/metal tracks this is such a great game to not only play, but listen to. It’s not very often that I play a game and instantly notice the soundtrack. I usually have to purposely listen out for it to really take it in. There’s no such case in Steredenn. The music just grabs you without subtlety and lets you know how awesome it is. If you want to know how a soundtrack can elevate a game so highly then play Steredenn because you’ll have so much fun destroying enemies while rocking out to high quality pumping tracks.
Visually I think the game is also of a high standard. Yes, it’s pixel based but it’s so well done. The amount of animation is great and the art direction is spot on. The explosions are just awesome and each of the many weapons are visually distinct. I love the background images too, rather than only having black space, there’re smatterings of some gorgeous nebulas and planets here and there which are really quite striking.
If there was one small, very minor complaint about the visuals I would say that the bosses in the game aren’t all that visually dissimilar which makes it difficult to know which one you’re coming up against at times.
The gameplay is where things get even more awesome. Steredenn is a rogue-like horizontal shmup of the highest quality in my opinion. It’s not a genre mashup you would think works, but my word it does. When I think of rogue-likes from smaller indie games, I think of compromise. Developers sacrificing time consuming handcrafted structures, for quicker, easier randomly generated gameplay elements. I went into Steredenn with that in mind, almost looking down on it. I came out of Steredenn wondering why all shooters aren’t like this.
What this means is that yes, almost everything is randomly generated. From the weapons, the power ups, the enemies, the environments and even the bosses to some extent. There’s a lot. And that’s what makes Steredenn so endlessly replayable and addictive.
There are five very different crafts to use although only the first one is unlocked from the beginning. You have to satisfy certain requirements to unlock the rest. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. If they’re fast, slow, weak or specialising in a specific type of weapon. They each have their own special move too. One of them has a seemingly feeble melee attack, one can launch homing rockets, one can teleport, another can lay down modules that increase the power of bots.
You can equip two weapons at a time although each of the craft start with their standard shot. Once you’ve picked up another the next one can be exchanged for one of the shots you already have, even your default weapon is ripe for exchange. Flicking between your weapons couldn’t be easier with the Y button, exchanging is done with the X button if you hover over the new weapon icon that should be hanging around the battlefield. There are so many weapons in Steredenn, an unbelievable amount. Put into different categories you have the bullet weapons, the heavy weapons, the energy weapons, the bot weapons and melee weapons, each defined by their own colour. This is again what makes the game so endlessly replayable in my opinion. I’ve played hours and hours and I yet haven’t found them all. They’re massively varied and all of them viable in my opinion. It all depends on situations as to what you want for the situation and the power ups that you attach to your ship.
Speaking of power ups, after completing a stage and blowing the boss to bits you’ll be granted the opportunity to choose one of a handful of assists to power up your ship. This could be increasing the power of a certain type of shot, increasing your score combo, make reloading certain weapons faster; there are loads.
When you combine the different weapons and power ups with the specialist crafts, you’ve got yourself a very varied and potentially tactical game that can pan out differently each time, but get the right combination of things going and you may have something special.
It’s an incredibly difficult game, without a doubt. The stages themselves are mostly fine, but it’s the bosses that will punish you with their bullet hell nature and devastating attacks. While bosses are random, they’re only selected from a very small pool of candidates at each stage. For example, the first stage can end with a clash between one of four bosses. It’s enough to make it different, yet also allows you to study attack patterns and such.
I’ll tell you the truth, I haven’t completed Steredenn yet. Sometimes I play it and get destroyed early in the game, other times I have a great run only to fall at a similar hurdle. What is a constant though is that I can always feel my skill and learning of the game getting better, even if I may not have had much luck in some of the random elements. I make better decisions, I take down bosses without a scratch. I know I will beat this game eventually and I can’t wait for that day to come.
Outside of the campaign you have a few other game modes. Daily run which is unlocked after playing 10 games and his is an online dependent mode where folks around the world have one chance per day to get the highest score possible. If you mess up, game over man. Everyone has the same setup and level layouts so it’s all fair. This would definitely be a good mode to come back to once per day.
In addition to that you have a boss rush mode, an arena mode where you can choose to take on any of the bosses you’ve encountered to master them as well as a local co-op mode if you want to play with a friend. These options really help pad the game out.
At $12.99 or £11.99, I think for value, it’s a no brainer. For what you’re getting you could play this for dozens of hours thanks to its addictive nature and wholly viable random elements. Steredenn could be twice the price and I’d still be happy to say it’s good value for money. Sure, there may not be a huge amount of modes, but for the amount of time I’m going to get out of this just from the short campaign, it’s worth it.
For those who like to know, Steredenn: Binary Stars will take up a nice, small 372MB of storage space.
So much variety
Incredibly satisfying gameplay