Shoot First, a game by Beau Blyth, is a mix of a Roguelike and Run-N-Gun where you explore a randomly generated dungeon while searching for precious items and encountering vile enemy monsters of all kinds. You get thrown into the dungeon at a random entry point from where you have to make your way to the next-lower floor. On the way you find chests that you can shoot open to reveal useful items and occasionally you find companions who join your party or damsels which you have to rescue from captivity. If you escort them safely to the next exit they will thank you with a reward item.
The game isn’t your generic rogue-like, it’s actually very fast-paced. To get forward you have to encounter many monsters and dispatch them or at least evade them but the enemy AI is quite smart. Many monsters will try to flank or evade you and try to shoot you while you’re hiding in a tunnel. That said, Shoot First is not an easy game. The enemies shoot a lot and they shoot well. Many of them are also quite powerful. To counter this, you’re able to shoot into any direction or strafe-shoot into one direction while running. You can also increase in level which will improve your character’s skills. You’re doing so by shooting monsters and collect small, yellow artifacts (gold?) that are revealed after a monster dies. Still the game is rather difficult to beat and to be honest I haven’t made it any further than to the third floor so far.
The game’s music consists of a small selection of Impulse Tracker chiptunes which in my opinion aren’t anything to get excited about but they serve the game’s atmosphere well enough.
There are some nice ideas that the author brought into this game. For example boss fights! On every floor you will encounter one or more monster bosses. These are not only very powerful but as soon as you approach them the room will close around you and lock you and the boss (and occasionally other enemies) up, making it impossible to escape from the fight. As if this wasn’t already malevolent enough, additionally the walls will start to move inwards slowly, making them room smaller.
Shoot First isn’t without flaws however. It won’t store your key control settings so you have to define them again every time you start playing a session. There seems to be a problem with the game’s screen resolution because it never fills the screen completely but only occupies a much smaller area centered on the screen. It’s not possible to play in windowed mode and the game switches your screen to a very small resolution so if you had any other windows open on your desktop you will find them in disarray after you return from the game. There’s an online hi-score board into which your score is written – if you managed to get a high-enough score. However it seems some cheaters already occupied the highest positions. Something that is easily done with several cheat tools.
The author obviously used Game Maker to create Shoot First and I have no trouble with that as the author did a great job crafting this game. Game Maker is a tool that let’s you easily build simple games by putting together sprites, objects, events etc. but for a game of the complexity of Shoot First you still need a considerable programming knowledge. The question for me is if Flash wouldn’t have been the better solution for such a game and I can answer that question easily with a Yes!
It would be a relatively easy feat to create a game of this sort in Flash – provided you have the coding skills – and even benefit from it as it could have been made a web game and a multi-platform desktop game at the same time via AIR. Alas, with Game Maker it’s Windows only. As a Flash web-based game it would be easier to protect the game from Cheating or Hi-score Hacking (although the same goes for a desktop game made with AIR). It would also benefit from a smoother desktop-integration by scaling up to fullscreen without the need to switch the screen resolution. As a trade-off Flash doesn’t support sound tracker modules (yet) but there is Flod to the rescue which already supports a nice selection of tracker formats.
Still, Shoot First is a nifty and fun little game to which I certainly will return more often.
You can download Shoot First at the game’s official website.