Star Fox Guard: review

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At 2014’s E3, Nintendo stepped out of character to show off two games which were little more than proof-of-concept demos. Miyamoto showed off the projects – then known as Project Robot and Project Guard – which were intended to take advantage of the GamePad’s features. Robot has since disappeared, but Guard has been given a lick of Stafox-flavoured paint and is now available to buy on the eShop. While the intervening time has clearly been used to tighten and polish the graphics and gameplay, it’s hard to imagine that it plays an awful lot differently to what the press saw two years ago.

The somewhat tenuous Star Fox link is that the structures you are guarding are owned by Slippy Toad’s uncle, Grippy. Yes, Grippy, who is mercilessly raking in profit from the war-torn solar system by gleefully cashing in on the war machine’s demand for metals. There are cameos from the rest of the Star Fox team (especially if you have a compatible Amiibo for a once-a-day airstrike), and the 100 stages are split across various Star Fox planets. You’ll be using a laser with familiar effects, too, but that’s about it.

The basic concept is simple. Each stage consists of a small, vaguely maze-like structure with multiple entrances. A dozen cameras are scattered throughout this winding path, each armed with a laser. It is your job to use these cameras to stop the robots which appear from outside the structure reaching the centre.

The robots are split into two types. Combat robots will make a beeline for the centre, determined to destroy the mining equipment within (which they can do with one hit, resulting in an instant stage fail). Chaos robots aren’t interested in reaching the centre, but will disrupt any cameras they can at the first opportunity, putting them out of commission temporarily – or permanently. It’s only necessary to destroy all Combat class bots to clear the stage but, left unchecked, Chaos bots can rapidly make this extremely difficult.

It’s difficult to go too far wrong when your game involves shooting robots.

It sounds relatively simplistic, and it is. Depth is offered mainly through the different types of bots and, of course, not knowing when and where they will make their appearance. Chaos bots especially can vary in their speed, toughness, abilities, and speed at which these abilities are deployed. Keen observation and quick reflexes are a must, leading to undeniable moments of satisfaction and, more often than not, a sense of relief when the stage is cleared. Oho, you have a shield my laser cannot penetrate, do you Mr Combat bot? Well, I’ll just switch to this camera behind you and give you what-for, you scallywag. Ha!

Unfortunately, the tactics offered to you feel undercooked. The TV screen side of things works fine; you have visibility of all 12 camera views at once around the edge, with a larger view of the one you’re currently controlling at the centre. You can switch to any non-disrupted camera at any time via the touchscreen, but this is where the trouble starts. The cameras are numbered 1-12; okay, fine. Their placement follows no discernible order in this respect though (especially if you’ve mixed them up yourself before starting the stage), meaning every time you change you have to look down at the GamePad, take a second to locate the one you need, tap its number, then look back up at the TV again. If the reason you changed in the first place is to track a fast-moving bot, it might already have almost left your new field of view, meaning you have to look down at the GamePad…

That’s not usually as much of a problem as it might sound. You can move cameras around the stage during play as well as during your preparation but, as you might now realise, that’s really not practical. Especially in later stages, where bot attacks come thick and fast from enemies that are speedy and/or tough, splitting your attention between the pad and the TV to reposition cameras unavoidably takes your attention away from what the bots are actually doing, throwing you several steps closer to failure and necessitating another few lost seconds afterwards as you get your bearings again.

Forget that this is supposed to be an option, though, and frustration is lessened considerably. You’re thrown a few scraps of help as you level up and slowly unlock special abilities for your cameras. Only one camera at a time can be powered up in this way (initially, at least), but that’s simply another layer of planning for you during your stage prep. The game will show you how many bots will approach from each entrance, but you won’t have any idea what sorts of bots they are or what the spawn sequence will be.

Surprisingly, there are even bosses.

Unlocks are also used for the asynchronous multiplayer, where you can build your own team of bots and challenge those of other players. So heavily does this lean on unlocks though that a newbie will stand little chance against the advanced bots in an experienced player’s team and, conversely, somebody who’s unlocked all available defensive perks has a distinct advantage over all but the most deviously devised and advanced bot teams.

It’s by no means a bad game, but despite the admirable attempts at variety it is one that’s essentially repetitive and shreds your attention span. In 10-15 minute bursts, it’s a neat little timekiller that focusses your attention in a way not many titles demand. Ultimately, however, it’s the sort of thing you play between other games you want to play more.

critical score 6

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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