Procedural generation is a rather big deal in the indie game community at the moment, as it allows a studio to build a huge and winding title with a minimal number of actual game assets, allowing the team to focus on making sure the gameplay itself is up to snuff.
At first glance, Big Sky Infinity appears to head off in the other direction, with initial playthroughs lasting just minutes, and action that doesn't seem all that expansive or exciting.
But don't make the mistake of putting Big Sky Infinity aside, as this is one of the most essential PS Vita games to date. Its ostensibly simple gameplay soon reveals itself to be hugely addictive, sprawling with content, and rich with competitive elements.
Hit 'go' and you're thrown into a side-scrolling twin-stick shooter that's different every time you play. You've got a gun to shoot enemies with, and a drill with which to power through planets at will.
Baddies, bosses, obstacles, special events, and power-ups randomly spawn, and all you need to do is make sure you don't get hit by anything. The longer you survive, the higher your score will be - it's as simple as that.
Well, maybe not that simple. From the get-go, Big Sky Infinity feels rather tricky, and you will die over and over and over again. How do I defeat that boss? How was I meant to dodge around that bulletstorm? What the hell was that thing?
But, in the tradition of procedurally generated games like the glorious XBLA classic Spelunky, it's all about slowly but surely learning the ropes, noticing the danger signs, and building up your skill. After a couple of hours we were able to last a good quarter of an hour before bailing.
It helps that you pick up special shards that act as the game's currency as you play. You can use these stars to upgrade your ship, and soon you've got a beast of a craft that can take on much more (although it'll be a good dozen hours or so before you completely max it out).
There are also in-app purchases that allow you to buy more of the game's virtual currency, so you can upgrade your ship faster.
Where Big Sky Infinity really brings out the big guns is with its weird and wacky range of content.
First off, you've got a ton of game modes that include an arcade style mode, a nightmarish fling that doesn't last very long, a boss rush, and much more. There's also a cool 'horse'-style multiplayer mode in which you battle for scores online asynchronously.
Speaking of which, it's the online scoreboards that really do the business. Being able to see on the fly how your friends are doing, and rank yourself against the rest of the world, is utterly wonderful and will have you coming back time and time again.
This is all brought together in a delightfully stylish and genuinely humourous package. The backdrops and special effects are gorgeous, and the voiceover made us laugh several times.
Visual lag is a bit of a killer at certain points - when there are too many enemies on the screen, it'll all get a bit too much for the game to handle - but it's not so bad that you can't continue, and nor does it happen very often.Big Sky Infinity may give the impression that there's not a lot to it, but that's far from the truth. We're going to be lighting up the sky for a good while yet, and enjoying every second of it.
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