Spaceman Sparkles 2, by “tjern” is the kind of game for which the word “intense” was created. The best origin story I can think of is that Hotline Miami and a Bullet Hell game spent a sexy weekend together while making longing glances at the pixelated works of Vlambeer. It’s a trippy top down shooter in Atari-style bodywork which runs on incredible soundtracks. The gameplay loop consists of wandering around levels in order to obtain an ability, then fighting a boss. This sounds simple, except that there is crazy electronic music blaring non-stop and the core movement ability is instantly teleporting to anywhere on the screen with a click. Everything has a wonderful feeling of momentum: if you walk off a platform Sparkles starts to whimsically tumble away into space but can save himself with a well-timed teleport to solid ground, which feels incredibly slick. The art is a mixture of very low rez pixel art and constantly shifting vector-ish graphics that you could expect out of the Atari, but it’s far, far more energetic. The game asks if you are okay with flashing neon colors on startup, and immediately quits if you answer no.
And good lord, the graphics aren’t the only intense thing about the game. Deaths are instant, respawns unprompted and just as fast, but unlike say, Hotline Miami, there’s no time to contemplate your next move while in the thick of it. The defining moment of this game is the much maligned difficulty spike of a third boss: A flashing pink blob(accompanied, as always, by incredible, overpowered techno). It shoots more spiralling bullets than Texan New Years and launches deadly clones the size of France. As you struggle to focus fire to overcome its regenerating health, you also have to snap your crosshair around on a dime in order to teleport out of danger, and ration use of a secondary weapon to clear a path through the bullets and deal more damage. It’s complete and utter madness, but you’ll launch yourself into it again and again, hypnotized by the flashing lights and thundering music, seeing if you can just react just a *little* faster.
The game does not feel the need to explain itself well, there’s no plot from the outset, there’s almost no tuorializing. The seemingly empty pre-boss levels are sparse but huge, and even though there are hints as to collectibles and secrets, they seem to only be there to provide a little padding and cooldown between boss brawls. But that is forgotten in the face of dodgey-shootey-runaroundey-teleporting-wahey, and what can you expect for 3$ US?
A flowing, spastic, speed-of-thought dance with insanity, Spaceman Sparkles 2 is not for the faint of heart and mind but definitely worth a look.