Legends of the Universe – Cosmic Bounty is a side-scrolling, shooting adventure through a space station with some of the most basic environments using the ugliest color palette I’ve ever seen. That is the major, glaring flaw about the game. There are a lot of poor design choices, but there is still simple fun and enjoyment here. Before buying, ask yourself if you can take a light MetroidVania with basic enemies, basic bosses, basic secrets, long empty corridors and lots of backtracking that you can finish and 100% in under 4 hours? It’s a poor recommendation, but you can do a lot worse for the low price. If it was a bad game, I would have given up at twenty minutes in. Compared to its contemporaries of the genre, it’s easier, more forgiving with less hazards, enemies and annoyances.
You play as a blue clad, helmeted character with a white face plate and yellow cape in charge of other blue soldiers. Well that is until you crash land and you’re forced chase after a bounty alone and on foot while your crew repairs the ship. I can only imagine this to be a parody to a certain 80s cartoon villain. Along the way you’ll meet a green skinned woman with red hair in pink space armor that still remains an off-brand recognizable protagonist from a similar game.
The story takes a back-seat as it’s all about the action and a scavenger hunt throughout a subterranean space base. You’ll walk, run, jump, double-jump, glide, shoot, missile, bomb and beam your way through the area. When the game begins, you start with a lot of these powers, but that’s to get your feet wet, to show you what’s to come. It’s a good taste, because then you’re forced to earn it all again.
I am thankful the run is one of the first abilities to get unlocked, because wow there is a lot of running, backtracking and empty corridors. There are enemies, but the only hazards are spikes and those are sparse. It’s a game geared toward the easier side of things. It’s forgiving in a lot of ways. Fall in a pit? Respawn at the room’s entrance without taking damage. There are health potions for lack of a better term that you can buy for 100 zil at stations scattered throughout the base. Using a potion refills your energy, but sometimes t uses more than one “potion” to restore your health. So it feels like I get robbed of an extra use when it happens.
Save points restore your health, rockets regenerate, your beam recharges slow and it’s all manageable. When you die, you have to load your save again, so save often. Go out of your way to go back and save with the early parts of the game. The enemies start out tough, but get easier once you find upgrades for your projectile strength, health increase, defense boosts and projectile amounts.
I was at the point where no enemy could withstand me, because I had upgraded so much. That’s when the game put a nice little twist on things. It’s not about to be a spoiler, it’s about to be something to entice you. At some point the statues scattered throughout the station that have been random background objects become alive and far greater foes.
The real issue with the game is the lack of detail. Sure it’s a cheap game, but changing the player’s armor color would go a long way to making a new defense feel special. There are plenty of weapon upgrades, but it’s all the same gun, but more bullets. The environments as well look like a grid or a checker board at best. The colors are ugly, dim and dreary. It’s a dark space station, but the area has so much color even if it’s ugly color. Every area is unmemorable and it boils down to colors. Blue area, red area, orange area, purple area and so on. No area feels unique since they all use the same mechanics like fans to propel you upward and the same enemies. The bomb and rocket explosions feel out of place, like from another game since they have better colors and more detail to them.
Another big missing detail is a game over sequence. When you run out of health, you’re kicked to the reload screen. There’s no death, it’s an instant cut to menu. Sure it saves time, but in a game where you live so long, the demise of your character means more. A simple explosion or death jingle would have worked wonders.
If you thought we’re done talking about details, there are three types of walls that you can laser beam through, along with magnetic walls. All four are grey and the same cubic dimension, the laser walls have X on them and the describable difference is their shade. For a while I felt the laser wasn’t working like it had been.
The laser in general is a flawed method to break through these tiny blocks, because it drains quick, takes a while to recharge and only goes straight forward. Imagine clearing bricks from a wall with a sniper rifle rather than opening a door. A lot of the time I was stuck waiting for the beam to recharge, because it failed to destroy the small blocks to let me pass through. This resulted in wasted time.
There’s a lot of what feels like wasted time. Waiting for vertical moving platforms to come down for a lift. Having to backtrack so much, which leads me to the map. This map has a lot of pros and cons. You can call it up and have it laid on the screen as you play. You can see the room locations of collectables and save spots. The biggest help of all is seeing the location of your next goal. The down side to the map is the fact it only shows you your next goal if you’re in that map’s area. So if you’re in the blue area, but the goal is in the red area, you need to get to the red area, before you can see where the goal is. On the map, you’ll see tiny dots off to the side of rooms. These tiny dots are how you find new areas or sectors. These little yellow dots can be easy to miss when the map is transparent laid over the action on screen. Having a mini map on the screen would have also been nice. Another thing I noticed is sometimes the map was a bit incorrect. My position shown in a simple blue dot would be in the wrong room. The adjacent area marker would be in the wrong place. It’s nothing big.
With secrets, they’re basic walk through walls sort of stuff. Most secrets are easy to find since items get marked on the map. So if you explored an area and there is no item, it’s behind a secret wall. Sometimes the game would lure me into thinking there’s a secret, by having destructible blocks next to a solid wall, but I was still unable to go through.
As for other frills of the game, it keeps track of your progress when you view the save files, but it marked me as having 100% when I knew there were still items left behind level-3 beam walls. I was too far into the finale to go back tracking yet again to scrub each area down. It was frustrating getting a new item, scrubbing everything down to discover oh I still can’t break through that beam wall despite having the beam.
Cosmic Bounty makes full use of every face and shoulder button on a controller. This allows you to fire rockets, shoot your gun and a beam all at the same time. It’s good for wiping out tougher enemies. The default controls felt awful with shoot as the B button and run as the X button, so thanks to the rebinds, I set the shoulder to trigger run and the shoot to be X. After rebinding, I had to rebind them several more times. Sometimes performing rebinds would get me stuck in a black screen that I assume was the rebinds menu, but unseen off screen somewhere. It was impossible to leave or progress.
There is an issue late in the game where enemies fire projectiles from off screen and your character is too big to dodge. It becomes a gambit of bullets that you have to beam your way through, because your bullets and rockets dissipate when they leave the screen.
I will reiterate that Cosmic Bounty falls somewhere in the middle ground of games that have problems, but they’re still fun enough to keep playing. Worth a try if you can get past its lack of details.