Review: JASEM: Just Another Shooter with Electronic Music

Just Another Shooter with Electronic Music really is just another shooter with electronic music. It’s a relatively nondescript low-poly twin-stick shooter that’s pure action and no frills. By no frills I mean not a single one.

JASEM puts you in control of a purple and teal robot, outfitted with tank tread navigation and a pair of swappable gun-arms. After an initial epileptic seizure warning, you’re dropped immediately into the fray without any frontend menu or even the slightest attempt at a story setup to provide any sense of context for what you’re objective is supposed to be. Aside from numeric counters, you won’t find a letter of text anywhere else in the game, or any form of reference to help get you going. Just put your finger on the trigger and let her rip through hordes of hostile robots, turrets, and flying drones. There isn’t even a HUD, so health status is a mystery. Many times death is met by confusion over what hit you or what led to your sudden demise.

Although there is no immediate sense of it, there is a standard level and boss battle progression to blast through until reaching a fixed end point. Each of the five main levels (plus a tutorial stage) consists of a series of arena-like platforms connected by bridges and planks, all hovering in the air without any railings or barriers to keep you from falling over the edge, which results in an instant death. Even the recoil from your own fire has a pushback effect that can send you tumbling over if you aren’t mindful of your surroundings. Each arena section has a certain number of enemies to destroy, as indicated by a countdown number placed directly at the center of the arena. Clearing all of the enemies deactivates a laser barrier leading to the next area and also unlocks a health refill station and a random weapon pick-up somewhere in that area. Sometimes you’ll need to manipulate switches to lower bridges into place or boost-dash past obstacles like flame jet traps or rotating platforms.

Every death starts you back at the beginning of the current stage and respawns all enemies, but any bridges that have been lowered into place from previous attempts stay put, helping to create shortcuts that can be taken to reduce how much needs to be redone to get back to where you were or, better yet, hightail it back to the boss area for another crack at the big bad waiting to blow your bot to smithereens. There is a certain degree of randomization to the levels in terms of the different enemies you’ll face with each respawn (and you’ll die and respawn a ton, trust me), but the game doesn’t use full on procedural generation as the map layouts and bosses are always a constant.

While the gameplay sticks to a familiar twin-stick shooter format, one of the game’s distinguishing features is its interchangeable, dual-limb weapon system. Using a weapon wheel interface, you can swap out your robot’s gun-arms on the fly and dual wield any combination of eight different weapons, including the automatic machine gun, burst rifle with homing swarm bullets, flamethrower, laser beam, rocket launcher, grenade launcher, shotgun, and energy shield. You start each stage with one of each gun type, but the weapon drops from clearing enemies from each area open the possibility to dual wield the same gun with both arms. What’s cool is the way the two guns fire independently from one another–pulling the left trigger fires the left gun, the right trigger fires from the right–allowing you to space your shots or pull back on both triggers for maximum carnage. But be careful, because you can easily kill yourself on your own projectiles, especially grenades and rockets.

The bosses are another highlight, each one looking like a vehicular death machine that was handcrafted without instructions from a pile of voxel Legos. Each successive boss ramps up the complexity and challenge of its movement and firing patterns, and the strategies necessary to get at its obligatory bright red weak points. The game culminates with a heavily armed train that moves across the area along multiple tracks that come from all sides and angles. The next track will glow to let you know the train is incoming, but you first have to spot the correct track before waiting in ambush to chase alongside and fire at the weak points, all while dodging flame jets and grenades. It’s pretty nuts.

Visually, JASEM looks quite plain and amateurish. However, where it matters most, the voxelized explosions are flashy and satisfyingly chunky. The electronic music largely blends into the background, but the thumpy beats and basslines serve as ideal accoutrements to the bombastic action. On the downside, a lingering lack of polish serves as a reminder of the game’s origins in early access. The game has frozen or crashed on me a handful of times. On several other occasions I’ve encountered smaller glitches with the weapon selection wheel not appearing correctly and the player robot getting snagged on an edge or hung up on physics objects within the environment.

Play time will vary depending on skill level, but on average clearing the five-stage progression should take between two and three hours, at which point you can tackle a boss rush bonus stage and, if you feel so inclined, re-run stages to earn achievements for killing all enemies and beating bosses without dying. Without the implementation of a scoring system or completion timer for speedruns, the game is lacking in direction and a defined purpose. Still, the game itself controls well and delivers on its seemingly lone goal of offering explosive twin-stick mayhem at a high degree of difficulty to please the genre’s staunchest and most masochistic fans. The learning curve is fairly high right out of the gates, but if you put in the effort–and a sizeable death count–there is a sense of discovery and reward that begins to build as you discover little tricks of how to manipulate the physics, master enemy movement and attack patterns, figure out different weapon combinations for certain situations and enemies, and basically learn how to play through trial and error.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Challenging, no-frills twin-stick action
+ Exciting boss battles
+ Cool weapon wheel and dual-limb firing mechanic

Cons:
– Steep difficulty curve
– Lack of direction and guidance can be confusing
– Still feels a bit buggy and unpolished

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Stas Shostak
Developer: Stas Shostak
Release Date: 10/19/2017
Genre: Action
Players: 1

Source: A code for JASEM was provided to VGBlogger.com for review purposes by Stas Shostak.

Buy From: JASEM is available on Steam for $5.99.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles.

Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere.

Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn’t mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!