Psycho Starship Rampage – Unique Space Action

PSR Logo

A few years ago I went searching for a game like Tyrian, my favorite space shooter from the late 90s. I didn’t find anything. There were tons of space shooters, sure, but Tyrian had a great customization system, and over a decade later I couldn’t find a game that compared, much less improved on it. Turns out Psycho Starship Rampage is the game I was looking for.

PSR is a customization-heavy rogue-like game built on the skeleton of a standard space shooter. Gameplay is divided into two parts. Stages are pretty standard shooter levels with waves of enemies, terrain hazards, and a final boss. But, after each one, you go into “hyperspace” where you can use parts picked up in the prior level to customize almost every aspect of your ship. Thus the game cycles between design and battle until your eventual demise. Because PSR is, at the time of this writing, still very much in beta I’d like to talk about its central mechanics first, and then discuss the current state of the game (which will no-doubt change in the near future).

What makes PSR special is the ship customization. This isn’t merely a matter of selecting weapons or some such—PSR gives you the ability to design a ship from the ground up. You build the body of your ship of basic geometric blocks and give it functionality by installing devices on them. You decide the number, location, and type of engines, power generators, batteries, repair units, and weapons. You have control over the precise angle of guns and, in a very clever feature, over key bindings of individual components, meaning that you can map weapons systems to keys in whatever combinations you like. Your customization is only limited by what you pick up in the levels: technologies are rolled like RPG weapons, meaning that even two lvl 1 blaster patterns won’t be identical. Upgrades must be paid for with scrap salvaged from your exploded foes.

Psycho Starship Rampage

This system is the game’s strongest feature. Your design decisions are significant, noticeably altering how your ship plays. The interface is clear and easily learned. And there is opportunity to test your customizations out before embarking on another level—a smart feature I wouldn’t have known to ask for. Designing ships is what I most enjoyed about this game. The actual shooter is well-executed, but unremarkable and a bit plain. Enemies are rather abstract looking and all come in the same color. The only other element of a stage is random space debris such as meteors.

Backgrounds are nice looking but simple. One noteworthy feature of play is the variety of ways to fight. In addition to projectile weapons, you can install impact weapons (energy spikes) or tractor beams which allow you to bludgeon enemies with debris. (This is the only game I’ve played in this genre where terrain obstacles hurt opponents as much as you.) My only real complaint with play is that in some stages small debris, background elements, and scrap look enough alike that, in the thick of things, it can be hard to tell which is which.

Overall I give the game’s core engine high marks, but the game itself currently has other issues. Apparently there is to be a campaign mode, but it is not yet implemented. This means that whatever story the game has doesn’t really show except in the trailer. I don’t mind that though—the survival mode is fun, and I don’t expect elaborate story from a game like this. On the other hand I was a bit bothered by the difficulty of progression. In typical rogue-like fashion technologies, including fairly essential ones, are to be unlocked with play. Now, right up-front I should say that I dislike grinding. Having to play many games at a handicap while you unlock everything is my least favorite feature of current rogue-likes. But here there’s a further problem: while the initial few unlocks were easily achieved, I quickly hit a wall. Unlocking anything further appears to be very difficult.

Psycho Starship Rampage

After eleven hours of play (and some save game manipulation to get around permadeth) I’m still roughly where I was after two. In a brief correspondence the designers indicated they’re aware of this problem and intend to fix it. That’s good, because in a game centered around ship building this cut me off from a frustrating number of parts. (That tractor beam I mentioned? I’ve still only seen it in videos.)

I really like the core of this game. Building your own ship and blowing things up with it is good fun. Still, the details need tweaking before this is ready for release. I’ve been looking for a game like Pscyho Starship Rampage; and I look forward to more finished versions.

A few years ago I went searching for a game like Tyrian, my favorite space shooter from the late 90s. I didn’t find anything. There were tons of space shooters, sure, but Tyrian had a great customization system, and over a decade later I couldn’t find a game that compared,…

Psycho Starship Rampage

Ship Customization - 9.5
Gameplay - 7.5
Appearance - 7
Balance - 5

7.3

Good

PSR is a rogue-like space shooter with a really great ship customization system. The beta is fun to play, but the game will be much better when the devs work out some kinks in game progression.

User Rating: 4.4 ( 1 votes)

Buy Psycho Starship Rampage on Steam


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