One of the wonders of Indie development is that genres that seemed as though they’d died out years ago are still kicking furiously. Another wonder is how many of these games are made by small teams or just one person. Such is the case with Remote Life. Designed by one person, this “shmup” (shoot-em-up) evokes the late ’90s and early 2000s when side-scrolling shmups were still a viable genre and could captivate the hearts of the masses – just as easily as the Triple-A titles of today do.
When an attempt to stop an alien Mothership heading to Earth ends in disaster, it’s up to you as a one-man army, with a single surviving spaceship, to blast your way into the Mothership’s depths and end the alien menace before Earth’s days are numbered. Cue a vast alien horde, plenty of bullets, and a serious amount of weaponry to deal with them. If that sounds like a good time to you, then Remote Life is exactly where you should be putting your peepers and your itchy trigger fingers on.
Remote Life evokes the style and settings of Irem’s phenomenal R-Type. There’s a distinct similarity between the two games: alien hordes, massive bosses, a whole lot of bio-mechanical designs, and an intriguing combat system that helps the game stand out from the crowd. In Remote Life your ship’s weapon systems have a 360-degree field of rotation, making the game a twin-stick shooter as well. Regardless of what weapon you’re rolling, you can blast away in all directions at whatever is trying to kill you.
And you will need that versatility because Remote Life throws everything at you, from every direction imaginable. The screen is often filled with environmental hazards, enemies, and projectiles galore, all heading in your direction. So it’s a good thing you can rotate that cannon and fire out an endless stream of proton death.
Remote Life isn’t stingy with its armaments either. Scattered across each level are plenty of weapon pickups that replace your standard selection of three infinite-ammo weapons. The pickups do have a limited amount of ammo but deal massive, screen-clearing damage when utilised correctly. There’s never a need not to use them or to conserve ammo because they’re so plentiful, but you do need to learn what each weapon does to make sure a new pickup doesn’t replace a far more valuable one. Along with these weapons, you can pick up external turrets for a limited time that also fire in all directions. Alas, they don’t last long.
The other major pickup you’ll want to hunt for are extra lives. Remote Life has a one-hit-kill system for you. Each level begins with a limited number of lives – dictated by the difficulty you’re playing on – so finding an extra heart is a godsend. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as making it to a boss only to exhaust your last heart and have to restart the level.
Remote Life is, you see, seriously challenging. There are no save points in a level. Every time you exhaust your lives, you have to restart the level again. If you have extra lives, you’ll be respawned right back in where you blew up. But wipe out completely and it’s back to the beginning for you.
Remote Life’s difficulty, which is seriously challenging even on “easy”, is due to both the level design and enemy placement. The levels are littered with environmental hazards to watch out for along with twisted, claustrophobic level design. Empty space is a luxury and while you have to watch out for closing walls that force you forward, rotating obstacles sliding along the screen, or platforms dividing the play area in two, the enemies have no such problems. They, and their projectiles, can easily slide through obstacles while you have to manoeuvre like a madman in a Pac-Man championship match.
It’s not all completely in their favour, however. Most enemy projectiles can be destroyed, which is wonderful as, oftentimes, there’s simply no room to dodge. Faster ships are unlocked as you progress but, if you’re not careful, that speed can help you meet a wall faster than an enemy bullet.
Surprisingly, Remote Life takes a more detailed approach to storytelling than what you usually get in shmups, with the story told through between-level cutscenes, text, and in-game voiceovers. It’s nothing particularly new but it is a welcome addition all the same.
Visually, Remote Life is rather stunning. The visuals are crisp, clean, and wonderfully animated with a surprising amount of depth and design added to the game’s bosses. Backgrounds pulse in and out of view, while the biomechanical alien and environment designs are all fantastic. The game sports some gorgeous particle and explosion effects with beam weaponry really lighting up the screen. You can also jump into the video options to turn off all or some of the effects and even apply 8-bit or arcade filters. Again, it’s hard to believe at times that this comes from one person.
Remote Life may not be breaking new ground in the shmup genre, but then it doesn’t need to. With gorgeous visuals, an entertaining though derivative story, and solid and challenging gameplay, Remote Life is a worthy addition to any shmup fan’s library.
A review code for Remote Life was provided to Gameblur by the publisher
Remote Life (Nintendo Switch) ReviewRemote Life
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Audio8/10 Very Good
- Gorgeous visuals
- Claustrophobic level design
- Made by one person!
- Might be too hard for some