We begged, we pleaded, we waited for years, and finally the sequel to Raptor has arrived. Demonstar, fresh off the presses from Ionos and Moutain King Studios, hopes to pick up where Raptor left off by providing PC gamers with some good old fashioned arcade action. Having enjoyed the previous game so much, as it was nothing short of spectacular when it debuted several years back, I was really hyped up to try out Demonstar. Now that I've gotten a chance to try it out, it would be fair to say I feel somewhat cheated.
Demonstar is a vertical scrolling shooter in which you take control of the RaptorX prototype ship and take on the Xidus Armada by your lonesome self. Tons of enemies come at you in waves as you move through the eighteen uninteresting and overly hyped levels, requiring you to be quick with the old trigger finger. Along the way, you'll destroy aerial enemies and ground installations, pick up a host of powerups, discover warps to other areas, and just do some damage in general. Most shooters these days offer some innovation over the market's current line of games, but for some reason the same people who had made Raptor so fascinating made Demonstar into little more than a tired old Raiden clone.
At the heart of any shoot em up is the selection of powerups and special weapons that can be employed. Just as in Raiden, you'll come across powerups of varying colors which provide different weapons, and collecting a series of one color allows you to achieve maximum power in one of these weapon categories. I find it truly odd that the people who gave you every sort of imaginable weapon (including carrots) in their last game have seen fit to give you nothing more than colored lines, tiny missiles, and tiny dots as weaponry. Even at the most powered up level all armaments are wholly unimpressive and certainly aren't anything shooter fans haven't seen before. In case you need to clear the screen of enemies when the action gets too hot to handle, nuke bombs are available, once again just like in Raiden.
If any other factors that were key to the success of a shooter came to mind, they would be graphics and sound. The soundtrack for this game might have been created by Bobby Prince, the guy who created the music for Duke Nukem 3D, but it's not very entertaining. When blasting away at the enemies, I did find the sound effects to be adequate though uninspired. Since it resembles Raiden in every other imaginable way, it's no surprise that the graphical quality of Demonstar isn't really much better. Explosive effects were handled nicely, but aside from that the bosses, levels, and enemies were of average quality at best.
Maybe the reason I'm so disappointed with this title is that I set my sights way too high based on what Raptor offered in the past, but I tend to think that isn't the case. I can't manage to shake the feeling that I actually would have more fun by playing Raptor instead of Demonstar even though it's close to four years old by now. Unless you're looking to see a dreary clone that should have been called Raiden III, there's no need to play Demonstar.
When Apogee released Raptor: Call of the Shadows in 1993, it was universally heralded as a genre-busting action game. Before Raptor's release, PCs were snubbed as too "underpowered" to handle graphically intense shooters, and console gamers took great pleasure in rubbing our noses in games like Keio Flying Squadron and Super Turrican. However, Raptor's graphics and gameplay took the shooter genre to a whole new level, and by allowing you to trade in cash for powerful new weapons, injected some strategy as well.
Now, Raptor's core team has returned to bring us Demonstar. This game is basically a one-man show - both the programming and art come from Raptor's lead designer, and the audio portion was performed by Bobby Prince, Apogee's pet composer. But when you fire up Demonstar, it may leave you asking, "Is this it?"
Demonstar is the most simplistic shooter you could ask for. As your tiny ship blasts through scrolling starfields, dozens of nasties fly towards you on a collision course. Wiping out these enemies yields helpful power-ups that enable bombs, phalanx lasers, and other destructive options. As you progress through the 20-odd levels, the action escalates in its intensity, with faster enemies and projectiles spewing all over the place. Chances are pretty good that you've played this type of game before, and you won't experience anything new here.
But the biggest disappointment about Demonstar is how it can't even come close to equaling the original Raptor. Aside from some stunning explosions, the graphics are amateurish at best, with little diversity over the course of the 18 levels. The sound effects are nothing to write home about, and the music is repetitive and dull. It would have been nice to trade in points to beef up your ship as in Raptor, but no go - you're stuck pounding through from start to finish (without any save-game feature to boot).
You won't have to worry about death - thanks to a whopping 18 continues, even the most joystick-impaired player can succeed admirably. But instead of challenging your reflexes, Demonstar tests your patience - chances are good that you'll be voluntarily pressing Alt-F4 to quit long before you run out of ships.
While Raptor ran in low-res VGA to keep the frame rate smooth on 486s, Demonstar ups the ante by running in SVGA. There's a major trade-off: Demonstar always runs in a window, even if you're playing in the so-called "full screen" mode (which simply crops out your desktop background with metallic textures). And while there is a two-player mode that lets you and a buddy take on the evil empire at once, the box falsely advertises some sort of "Internet play." Sorry, it ain't in my version - but I doubt that TCP/IP support could have helped this game much.
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