The year is 8899, and Thearsa — the home planet of humanity — has been pounded by the biomechanical G’ell hordes for the last thirty years, but things are finally about to change. After managing to salvage and restore the G’ell’s very own technology, Thearsian scientists — led by Lave Furuk — have managed to reverse-engineer it and finally produce weapons capable of pummeling those tentacled alien-scum. We now introduce to you all with the DSP-mk1, a retrofit package capable of turning virtually any space-worthy vessel — new or old — into a bona fide platform of super-sweet G’ell eradication!

“The only question you’ll need to ask yourself now — soldier — is if you’ve got the courage to enlist, convert your ship into a G’ell-blasting DSP-mk1 fighter, and then get back meowt there!” – Cat Admiral

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Readers of iFanzine might remember when we covered a Kickstarter last year for a Graphic-Adventure/Shoot’em-Up hybrid-project known as Starr Mazer, from the talented team over at Imagos Softworks. Although their game project — which is still in development — didn’t quite reach its mobile stretch-goal, the possibilities of mobile distribution are currently being discussed with their publishers over at Adult Swim. Although Adult Swim Games is certainly not one to shy away from the ever-expanding mobile marketplace, we’re actually gathered here today to instead discuss the absolutely 100% mobile-bound Starr Mazer: DSP.

Co-developed between Imagos Softworks and Pixeljam Games — whom are best known for Dino Run and Potatoman Seeks the TroofStarr Mazer: DSP is set 200 years before Starr Mazer, covering a pivotal moment in the long-war that changed the entire universe. Dropping the Graphic-Adventure based portions of its mainline-brethren, Starr Mazer DSP is a fast-and-furious — as well as utterly unapologetic — game focused entirely on Shoot’em-Up action. The game additionally promises to provide players with a rather a different Shoot’em-Up experience than what’s found within Starr Mazer, and as such the following shouldn’t be considered as preview of how Starr Mazer will eventually play.

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Participating in what was essentially the universe’s equivalent to D-Day, your job is to lead a rag-tag bunch of — hyper expendable — mercenaries as you attempt to punch your way through to the G’ell’s mother-ship: The Atamastor. In order to do this you’ll first need to assemble your team, but you’re going to quickly discover that — after thirty years of unending warfare — the only potential recruits remaining all expect to be paid upfront. As such you’re going to need to collect the money necessary to hire your team, and the only way do that is to collect the valuable sk:ore dropped by each and every last G’ell scum you pound into radioactive space-dust (i.e. your cash is the same as your score).

Once your initial-team has failed — which is more a question of when, rather than if — you’ll have a chance, using all of that freshly accrued sk:ore, to purchase your next band of victims valiant defenders of Thearsa. The first choice you’ll need to make is which pilot pack you wish to grab; with better packs having higher odds of containing better pilots, yet also eating up more of your sk:ore upfront. The pilots then made available will have randomly generated faces and profiles, ship appearance and attributes, voice-packs (with over 100 promised for the final release), as well as G’ell blasting weaponry.

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You’ll then have choices to make: do you stock on a few of the best pilots — whose gear matches your personal preferences — or do you buy up as many cheap mercenaries as you can, hoping to employ quantity over quality. Both are equally viable options, and everyone will need to decide which path they best believe will lead them towards sweet-victory over the seemingly-endless always-tentacled G’ell hordes. Of course you’ll also need to factor into your strategy how you plan to finance your next squadron’s formation, because saving Thearsa is going to prove to be one absolutely-brutal meat-grinder.

Although Imagos Softworks and Pixeljam Games currently aim to release Starr Mazer DSP sometime this upcoming August, we here at iFanzine recently got to test-drive an early alpha-build. First things first: if Don Thacker — of Imagos Softworks — hadn’t personally told me that the demo I was playing was just an early alpha-build judged to be roughly 5% complete, I would have honestly thought otherwise. The current demonstration build is actually quite a bit engaging, with the screen utterly filled with G’ell ships weaving all over — missiles out the wazoo — and explosions everywhere.

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Rather than feeling like yet another Bullet Hell game — which have utterly clogged the market these days — Starr Mazer DSP has chosen to deliberately harken back to various side-scrolling classics such as R-Type, Star Soldier, and Lord of Thunder. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise since Don Thacker has regularly, while discussing the progress of Starr Mazer, made his love for the Turbografx-16 well known. If there was one particular genre of game the underplayed Turbografx-16 was exceptionally famous for, then that would have to be side-scrolling — pre Bullet Hell — style Shoot’em-Ups.

One part of the game I found to be particularly interesting was the Carbomite-system, wherein the same fuel that powered your special-weapon also determined the power-level of your primary-weapon. While using a Phase Slip to slow down time — or just blowing everything away with either the Death Blossom or Infinite Salvo — might get you out of a tight pinch, you’ll always have to factor in how this will weaken your main weapon. Those who’ve already read a fair deal of my reviews over here at iFanzine will likely know just how much I’ve always valued the inclusion of Risk-Vs-Reward based mechanics in game design.

If — after reading this article — you’d also like to endlessly throw mercenaries at the G’ell, all up until Thearsian forces finally triumph, then I highly recommend you follow the Twitter and Facebook pages for Imagos Softworks to keep yourself always up-to-date.