There was a time when you could walk into an arcade blindfolded, drop a quarter into any random machine, and have a pretty good chance of ending up with a game where you flew a spaceship against swarms of enemy vessels while dodging increasingly complex patterns of enemy fire. They were designed to kill you and steal your quarters, but the ever present threat of death made getting a high score feel like a real achievement.
Those days have largely passed, but Pester for PC seeks to capture some of that old arcade feeling.
Pester is a top-scrolling shoot ’em up where you fly your ship against tons of enemy fighters, dodging an occasionally absurd amount of enemy fire, grabbing power-ups and wiping out as much alien scum as you can before you lose all your lives. It’s as simple a concept as it ever was, with the arrow buttons controlling your movement. You are able to go forward and back to assist with dodging bullets, unlike many games of the type. You have buttons to shoot your standard lasers, launch a bomb, or activate a ‘Hyper mode’ when you fill your meter by shooting down bogeys. And…that’s really it.
So why do I like it so much? Partially it may be nostalgia for the arcades of my youth, but I think it’s mostly the specific type of game. So many games these days are all about the story, and the gameplay can suffer for it. These are the AAA games, the ones that push the industry towards some type of legitimacy among non-gamers. Some of my favorite games fit into that category, but Pester doesn’t. It isn’t concerned with telling a grand story or advancing the medium. It’s unpretentious and real in a way that many games these days are not. You have a simple goal and simple controls, so the designers weren’t afraid to make the game difficult and to make you want to try again ‘just one more time’ to get farther than before.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get ‘into the zone,’ where suddenly everything clicks and you are dodging fire and shooting down ships by the thousands with nary a scratch. It’s a feeling that is sorely missing from many games these days, but is always an experience I enjoy having whenever I get the opportunity.
Pester is meant to look like an old arcade machine, and it largely succeeds even down to including scan lines on the screen. It’s obvious that the game was not made ages ago, as some of the graphic effects are a bit nicer than you’d have seen in most old school arcade games, but you’ll get that same feeling that you had in the arcades ages ago when you see the screen fill with tons of different types of enemy projectiles. Some gamers may be put off by how easy it can be to lose yourself in all the stuff going on, but that’s part of the fun of the genre.
The sound is slightly more sophisticated than you’d have heard in the average arcade back in the day as well, but for the most part the sounds will be familiar to anyone who has played a lot of shmup’s. Expect to hear explosions, laser fire, and the occasional screen-wiping bomb go off. The sound of so many enemy fighters exploding on a great run might drown out the rest of the sounds if you’re really in the zone. There’s not a lot going on in the sound department for Pester, but at least it won’t have you distracted.
Pester is an arcade style shooter in the truest sense. You’ll fly and you’ll die. You’ll shoot down some enemy fighters and then lose yourself in a sea of bullets from whence you shall never return. If you aren’t the type who enjoys the challenge of getting a high score against overwhelming odds you’ll likely get frustrated and want to quit. But if you’re anything like me, there’s one thing you’ll definitely do many, many times; queue it up for just one more try.