Pester is a bullet hail arcade-style vertical scrolling space shooter and its biggest selling point is the cheap price of one dollar. For that alone, I can recommend the game, its worth the price, but looking deeper into the game, its a shallow, bare bones arcade experience that is only one step above classic Atari age retro arcade games.
The game has two modes, arcade that gives you three lives and tempest which is just a boss rush with one life. Each mode forces you to select tweaks to the mode. One of the tweaks is a duo mode where with one controller, you can fly as two ships using the left stick and trigger for one and the right stick and trigger for the other. To the game’s credit there is full 360 controller support as well as keyboard support.
You can also select music, backgrounds and graphics between old school and new. I prefer old school, because I can see the pixel graphics versus the new sprites that look muddy, dark and blurry because they’re stretched. In fact the entire game looks a bit blurry because of how stretched out the game is in full screen mode. Options also let you turn off the side bars with control information.
What seems to get me every time to make this a bad game is how imprecise it is. A simple tap of the analog stick or directional pad and your ship will be given a short throw rather than a nuanced or subtle movement. So I feel when flying between bullets and I need to move a bit to one direction, the controller will throw me into a bullet rather than between them. That could be the fault of the ship speed power up, but it seems to happen a lot.
There seem to be no bullet patterns or logic to the enemies. They just get shoved onto screen and you’re expected to destroy them all. The screen fills with enemies and bullets rather than carefully constructed patterns. If you get stuck in a dire situation, you have bombs that will clear everything off the screen.
Other than bombs, you can collect upgrades to increase your firepower and you’ll need it. Several of the enemies that stay at the top of the screen take a lot of shots and spray a lot of bullets. You collect stars that drop from enemies to fill up a power meter. Once the meter is full, use the power and you’ll have a super weapon to plow through enemies and pull in stars rather than having to fly into them to collect them.
At the end of five or so waves, you’ll fight a boss that’s slightly larger than the bigger enemies of the game. It just feels so lackluster. Hey at least there are bosses. I will admit the game is good at preventing a boss’s weakness. Such as the second boss will dive in firing missiles which would leave it open to fly behind, but the boss is smart enough to fire projectiles above it.
So the enemy design is good and I can tell the enemy logic apart from one another, but its the level design that is the problem. A giant cluster of enemies for every wave make it a game that’s tough right off the bat. There is more challenge than fun.
On top of everything, the game is just ugly. The enemy projectiles are all dark green on a black background. They become difficult to see especially if you’re playing in a bright room. The enemies themselves are dark on a black background too. The only bright things in the game are the player and the collectible stars. I swear that its possible for the bullets to get behind the stars so when I’m collecting a star, I run the risk of collecting a bullet with one hit death.
Pester keeps track of your high score, but there’s no way to enter your name, nor any online leader boards. Its missing frills that have become a given with other games of the genre. Even arcade games in the early 80s let you enter your name as a form of glory and reward for doing such an excellent job.
There are awards rather than true Steam achievements. These awards seem to unlock new backgrounds. I’d love if the game had a random background or random music rather than being forced to chose them.
So after its all said, the choice is yours. Its worth a dollar of quarters. Otherwise, the game is unfair, jerky, imprecise, but hey its only a dollar. In an era where people buy Steam games for the cards, the price makes the game an instant hot seller, no matter how much I feel this project was rushed out the door.