I am a big advocate for simplicity in video games. Often time’s enjoyment in games doesn’t stem from a complex story or droves of pulse pounding action orientated gameplay. The need to strip myself back from the sensory overload that is mainstream console gaming is a hunger for the simpler times. I look to independent titles from steam and retro games as an outlet where I can just relax for a while without having to focus on intense situations. The sure-fire recipe for success in these type of games [in my mind’s eye] is a bite size easy-to-digest concept done correctly, coupled alongside a healthy dose of challenging gameplay. This brings me to today’s light snack from the shmup genre of gaming.
Pizzarian is a shmup for Windows PC developed by Alex Jeddy. It puts you behind the counter of a planet hopping pizza delivery service that must contend with rival companies, bad drivers on the space highway and timely deliveries of the tomato based delights. That is about all the plot you need for this style of game as the primary focus is typically on the gameplay. Pizzarian is no exception.
The best way I can describe the gameplay is an interplanetary version of paperboy. Although, it’s not entirely paperboy in a nutshell. Before you to get to the delivery stage you get the chance to refine your ship in different ways to improve your overall service. Initially when the game begins you get a quick tutorial that introduces you to these mechanics.
The completely “legitimate” business named the Black Market is where you can buy the upgrades to your space traversing explorer. The market itself lets you buy weapons to equip, improve your engine and purchase general modifications to ramp up your ships stats to get the smoothest possible ride in the galaxy. Truthfully a lot of what you will see in the black market will be out of reach at first.
You gotta deliver dough to make more dough.
You earn money for each delivery you do in the game and there is an emphasis on setting your goals towards bigger and faster ships which is supported by the fact that they cost the most in the black market store. A side note on this particular store is the charmingly quirky dialogue of the clerk that greets you. You get some nice one liners out of the blue like “Doing Drugs isn’t cool” in reference to classic games that would often shoehorn in a message on winners not using drugs. One minor qualm I have with the dialogue is that it plays out entirely in a sequence when you enter the store. Thus while I’m reading descriptions of products, I’m also seeing scrolling dialogue to the right of those products. It’s distracting and could have been better in my estimation if he simply gave out one different line every time you enter.
Another main hub for the games interface is the home where you can save and load games whilst messing around with various options like music and sound effects. An interesting little feature in the options (that can also be seen on the main menu) is the color palette swaps. You can choose four color varieties to display the game. I was a cool ranch guy, because the other colors gave me a headache to look at. One in particular named virtual (after the virtual boy) is nigh on impossible to look at for me to look at for more than a minute. There was a reason virtual boy didn’t do well, its visuals were an eye sore. This being said this doesn’t detract from the game too much, as I mentioned it’s easily switched out for the pleasant blue cool ranch palette that is an ease on my strained eyes.
Exploring more of your central hub interface shows the planets that you can travel to as well as the headquarters of your store labelled Pizzarian. In the Pizzarian shop you can fine-tune your pizza making craft by refining the product to maximise profits and efficiency of delivery. This all costs money naturally which when you begin is quite scarce. Presumably due to all the money you assuredly put into the high functioning A.I computer that helps you in the operations of your ship. He mostly helps by keeping your morale up and engaging in idle chit chat. Once again I’ll commend the creator on some nice dialogue in this section, but also frown at the aforementioned problem of the conversation being thrown at you while you are trying to read descriptions of upgrades.
While I’ve talked about these stores that you will frequent. I haven’t really touched upon the gameplay that surrounds it. The gameplay in Pizzarian is its strongest point. You navigate a space highway avoiding obstacles and then you come down to a planet to deliver the pizza in a classic paperboy fashion. It’s a vertical scrolling shmup where houses our labelled pizza and you must fire at the correct house before it passes you by. It may seem like there isn’t much to this, but when speeds increase and the difficult setting has been set to “challenging fun” it becomes engaging in the enjoyment of pure simplicity gameplay. As I made a point of noting at the start of this review, Simple done well goes a long way. I found myself happily plugging away at the game for an hour or two over the course of a week. It was fun just performing the little tricks you can do when you send your pizza on their merry way through what I would presume is cannon.
In summation, I’d like to say that Pizzarian is a neat title that provides exactly what you would want in a game of this type. Good gameplay, neat upgrade mechanics, good dialogue, serviceable graphics for the retro vibe that the developer was going for and some old school music that you expect to hear on an arcade machine from 1980s. Its hindrances are minor in my opinion. One song on the hub is a bit grating, the color scheme choices weren’t the best and the previously mentioned annoyance with the dialogue doesn’t really ruin the game. Simplistic gameplay, done the right way. It also must be noted that it is properly difficult to develop a game entirely by yourself – and I feel that is admirable in the final product that it turned out to be just nice bit of light-hearted fun. Props to the developer on this account.
Developed by Alex Jeddy