Written by Thomas G.J. Sharpe
With a back story featuring a futuristic past-time (1989) and straight-outta-the-hat faction names (the Neo Loran Order, anyone?), Armed Seven conceptually nods... nay, headbutts toward a certain area. It is a to-the-gunpoint side-scrolling schmup featuring mechs, lasers, bullets and guns.
Genres can rise and fall, and then re-rise, changed and mutated, such as the point-and-click adventure. Time changes tastes and this is the same with the side-scrolling shooter. Armed Seven does everything by the book, even to the point of it having a clunky inelegance. It actually plays like something from my childhood that I would curiously boot up from a demo disk or a collection of shareware, pre-internet.
In control of a floating mech, you can pitch your guns at angles, but not move them once firing, adding the only other element of tactics outside of moving. You can pick your load-out, with a primary, secondary and chargeable special weapons. These come in the expected varied formats of machine guns, lasers, missiles and so forth. Curiously, I found, when you start a level, be it a traditionally war-torn past-future landscape or space-action-battlefield, the game tells you where your weak-spot is. The player mech is surprisingly large on the screen, but the hit-box is rather small. You can drift closer than it feels reasonable to incoming fire, harmlessly passing through your metal legs. This somewhat broke the connection for me between the character and controls. Hard to judge in the midst of battle.
This hints at the larger problem at the core of this game and just about forgivable at the price (a cheerful £3.99). The vehicles are a dull mixture of planes and mechs, and that's just about it. None of the thrill of the bio-mechanical R-Type, or the bizarre otherwordliness of Tyrian, or my personal favourite, the grungy, gory and brutal Gradius: Interstellar Assault. Hell, I feel Beat Hazard has a more varied approach and that's essentially an audio-'em-up game. A story as hammy as this deserves more craziness, more badassery... just more.
The side-scroll-schmup exists in pockets, occurring occasionally melted onto other game forms, or as pure and vicious shooters with an avid fanbase. These games, to succeed in the modern game biome, need to have adapted, whilst retaining what is essentially fun about the format. Pulling in some new ideas does not jeopardise the “retro” or “old skool”, I just want a bit of creativity. A customisable load-out is simply not enough to hold my attention for sustained periods. I simply do not buy that this is any more than a solidly made throwback. Like rockabilly music adopters who, with all the swagger and grunt, rarely stray from what can be a staid musical experience. It is a shame, but Armed Seven probably won't last too long in my memory. Maybe this is the point, but I wasn't moved to much more than a passing smile of nostalgia.