By: Justin Hobley
Voxel Blast is an arcade-style six degrees of freedom shooter produced by Ceiba Software and Arts. Voxel Blast’s playability fits into a style reminiscent of games of yore, such as Descent and Terminal Velocity, and in the publisher’s words, was created as a love letter to 3D dogfighting games. With that said, let’s dive in and take a look.
The controls in Voxel Blast are very sloppy and unsorted. Binding controls in the game with an Xbox 360 controller is an act of frustration, as the left and right triggers are unavailable for mapping. Throttle Up, Throttle Down, and Pause are attached to the right stick. Nothing else can be bound to that stick, including yaw or translation, as the configuration options ignore both sticks as well as the previously mentioned triggers. This makes gameplay suffer as directional movement is hindered by the poorly mapped controls, with dogfights becoming a very tedious turning battle that drags out.
Voxel Blast’s graphics are simplistic but, given the name of the game, expected. The majority of the objects that you’ll encounter are very angular. There are some noticeable problems with lighting, as evidenced in the introduction to the game’s Arcade mode: there is a fairly persistent lens flare that isn’t obscured by objects passing in front of it. This lens flare is also visible in most menus, making them difficult to read.
One annoyance I observed is that in my triple monitor environment, I’m unable to select any monitor beyond the locked choice of Display 2 when launching Voxel Blast. For people in multi-monitor environments, this may prove to be bothersome.
The music, what little there is, is nerve-grating to listen to. It’s very repetitive and feels uninspired. The minimal instrumentation in the music doesn’t help, and it drives the repetitive sensation that the soundtrack provides even harder. The sound effects are minimal and uninspiring, with their upper ranges sounding clipped.
Voxel Blast feels very much like a game that I can pick up, play for a half hour and put down without a pressing need to come back to it. There are four modes for single player: Challenge, Survival, Arcade and Boss mode.
Challenge mode is comprised of flying from gate to gate within the allotted time. As you make contact with the floating ring that is a gate, your time refills to the maximum based on the challenge level you are in. As you progress through the levels, the gates get closer together and less time is allotted to travel between them.
Survival mode gives you five lives to kill as many enemy ships as you can. The mode is fairly straightforward, defying the need for additional explanation.
Boss mode, as its name implies, is not how you hide the game when the boss walks into the office, but instead, it is a boss rush mode that allows you to tackle bosses that you’ve successfully killed in the Arcade mode.
Speaking of Arcade mode, this is the meat of the game. Voxel Blast’s Arcade mode has a storyline that begins with a fly-by of the TITAN 4, the world’s most powerful supercomputer. This supercomputer is located in Earth high orbit, where it spends its days crunching away at thousands of simulations and gathering data about the blue marble below it. TITAN 4 is also tasked with running the ATLAS simulation, which is an adaptive defense project that is learning how to overcome generic threats.
The story begins after ATLAS fails to shut down after its simulation was run. ATLAS then hijacks the TITAN 4 supercomputer and the orbital station, overwhelming the humans aboard by lowering oxygen concentrations and putting everyone to sleep. ATLAS is now stuck in a space combat training exercise thanks to the mysterious agency you work for, but someone needs to go in there and put a stop to the ATLAS processes manually to regain control over the station.
From there, you are tossed into a virtual world with one of a few ships that you can choose from to start. Each ship has two firing options – a primary laser-type weapon and a secondary rocket-type that needs time to recharge after firing.
In Arcade mode, you’ll follow your navigation ring from node to node, each node protected by up to three geometric designs spinning outside. Much like the challenge mode, you’re presented with a timer that you’re warned to be aware of in one of the communications you receive.
Not entering the node before the timer elapses is met with all of your targets inside that node being released at once, instead of attacking in waves. This captive node design is also used by Survival mode.
Voxel Blast also offers a multiplayer Deathmatch mode, but as of the time of this review, I’ve not been able to successfully get into a match to play against others.
Voxel Blast is playable in small doses, but the multiple control issues, along with the bland music and sound, make it hard to pick up the game and play again.