Developer: Michael Dickman
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

It never ceases to amaze me just how much a couple of added mechanics can make a game stand out in its genre. Of course it’s more than a simple matter of shoehorning a feature or two into the formula; there has to be some sort of balance. That, and they need to compliment each other. And I have to admit, I never would’ve expected Space Bits‘ odd pairing of SHMUP and Roguelike to work as well as it does. I mean it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s got a fair amount of potential.

spacebits09spacebits08Both of the key aspects of Space Bits have been simplified a bit. Permadeath, an expected trait of most Roguelikes, isn’t really a thing here. Instead each level is comprised of a series of randomized enemy waves and random loot drops. Fail and it’s back to the start of the level, but all experience and items gained along the way remain. So while it’s certainly possible to get blown up before completing a stage, it’s also easy to farm experience and loot to make trouble spots more survivable. The SHMUP elements are also less intense. The usual drag-to-move and auto-shooting controls are present, of course. But while enemy types are reasonably varied, they only ever move horizontally; which makes for some incredibly basic patterns. It’s the random combination of enemy types that makes the game the least bit challenging.

I’m honestly impressed by how well the Roguelike elements in Space Bits combine with the shooting. There are plenty of weapons and ship frames to find and utilize, and they only get more powerful the further players go. First it’s all about attack and defense but soon they’ll be equipping weapons that steal health or ship bodies that reflect damage. It’s also incredibly handy how the action will pause automatically as soon as I lift my finger off the screen. It makes scooping up new gear and distributing stat points after gaining a level totally painless.

spacebits02spacebits11However, as cool as the the odd combination of SHMUP and Roguelike is, it’s not enough to mask Space Bits‘ shortcomings. As I’ve said, enemy attack patterns are random and incredibly basic. This means that one might be ridiculously easy while another could make avoiding damage literally impossible due to the random spacing of enemy shots. I also encountered what I believe to be a bug that resulted in my ship’s defense multiplying significantly with each level-up. By the end the value was so high (400+) I was able to fight second zone’s boss without taking any damage at all.

Space Bits is a cool idea, but it’s not a fully realized one. As-is it’s a decent amount of quick pick-up-and-play fun but it feels unpolished in some places and unfinished in others. It has a remarkable amount of potential, though.

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