Developer: Mysticmono SL
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.01
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Sometimes all it takes is one small, clever idea to nudge a pretty good game into a pretty great one. At first, Shavalyn Pop: Alien Escape is a fun but standard scrolling shooter. However, the ways players can forge their own style enrich the experience with each new replay.

Players control Shavalyn Pop, a dude wearing a trucker hat inside a tiny space ship. That’s just the beginning of the game’s odd visual choices, though. As players fly through the shiny candy-colored sci-fi environments, they’ll encounter many strange enemies operating on cartoon logic. Giant boxing gloves punch down from the sky, weird glowing creatures race toward Shavalyn like secret admirers, and boss fights include giant televisions and rotary phones with mounted laser cannons.

shavalyn 1shavalyn 2One might expect a game as bizarre and vibrant as this to have an equally fast and chaotic pace. However, Shavalyn Pop is an oddly mellow game. Players tap on two buttons to steer the ship left and right, and press both simultaneously for quick vertical boosts. However, navigating around obstacles takes such precise movements that speed is rarely the answer. The slow, retro music full of bleeps and bloops also contributes to the almost sluggish feel. A single run can go on for so long that for once an “endless” shooter actually feels endless. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it does get a little annoying once the game is forced to repeat the same obstacle layouts.

However, Shavalyn Pop‘s coolest feature is one that makes each playthrough feel wholly unique. Players collect stars during each run, and every few hundred meters or so they can spend those stars on permanent upgrades for their ship. They can choose to replenish lost health, create temporary shields, or increase their firepower. These additions are expensive though, so players should commit to an upgrade path early on – which drastically changes the feel of the experience. Guns may not be needed in the initial, easier parts of the game, but investing in them early pays off with double and triple shot upgrades just when they are needed most. However, a more defensive strategy with a focus on health and shields has its benefits too. Upgrades don’t carry over from run to run so players can experiment with new approaches each time they replay the game, and they’ll definitely want to.

Shavalyn Pop: Alien Escape would have been fine as just a weird little shooter. However, by giving players simple but powerful ways to customize how they play, it becomes a great weird little shooter.

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