As a musical genre, dubstep is pretty hit or miss with folks. I’m not the biggest fan in the world, but I do love bullethells and shmups. What happens when you combine the intensity of those genres with the chaos of wubbeth? DubWars, that’s what.
Developer MURA Interactive injected their love of dubstep in to a hectic twin-stick bullethell shooter, where your weapons change with the beat of the music. There’s no triggers or special weapons, just rapidly changing weapons that automatically fire off along with the wub wub.
This provides an interesting concept in a number of ways. For starters, mastering the game requires lots and lots of repetition. Since you can’t really control your ship’s loadouts, you’ll need to memorize when your weapons change during each track. The opening track, Omnivore’s Urban Metaphor, even has bursts of silence–and no wub wub means no doof doof. Celldweller’s Tough Guy is quite the opposite though, sending out swarms of baddies and extremely frequent beat changes for a more hectic experience. The fourth track, Leviathan, actually tosses in larger boss creatures and a lot of vertical combat, so remembering when your massive lasers are about to shoot up or down is really the only way to survive the bigger swarms.
In the few hours I spent with DubWars, I really, really enjoyed its concept. As a fan of both Celldweller and Varien, I even found myself enjoying most of the 5-song track list; and this is coming from someone who isn’t really in to dubstep.
Since DubWars is currently in its early access stage on both Steam and OUYA, there’s definitely a few things I’d like to see while it’s under construction. Mainly, I’d like to have something to do besides replay the same 5 stages over and over again. I don’t really need a story to get engrossed in a shmup, but I wish there was some sort of Endless Mode that looped each track at random, or an option to play a track on a different stage. As it stands right now on OUYA, your only option is choosing between easy and medium difficulties and going through the chosen stage. Talk about bare bones.
I think MURA Interactive is definitely on the right track from a gameplay perspective, but hopefully they give the game a more attractive menu at some point. Right now it feels very homebrew, with nothing more than static images that represent each stage. I honestly didn’t even know which artists were behind each track without vising the official DubWars website.
Another issue I’m running in to right now on the OUYA is lag, especially during the newly released Varien track, Metalworks. It’s a brilliant stage with a lot of chaos and evasive requirements, but it suffers from so much slowdown that it feels almost unplayable at times. I’ve also had the game crash out to the OUYA menu while putting in my name for high scores, and if you’re a high score junky, it’s worth noting that your progress is erased completely after each update. There’s a reason for that, though. DubWars requires you to uninstall the game when an update becomes available, rather than just overwriting the previous version.
DubWars‘ beta is currently available on OUYA and through Steam’s Early Access program for $19.99, which is a bit more than I can recommend spending on the game in its current state. MURA Interactive promises at least 10 tracks, and right now there’s 5 solid levels to pick from, but without any additional modes of play, and a pretty archaic menu system, $19.99 is a pretty hefty asking price. If you’re still curious, check out the free demo on Steam (I’m not 100% sure if there’s a demo on OUYA, since I already have it installed).
That’s not to say the game isn’t fun. Quite the opposite actually. What’s available is extremely promising, and DubWars has been my go-to game on my OUYA (dethroning Duck Game) since I received an access code for it. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and will definitely be following along with all future updates because the gameplay foundation is great, and it’s a breath of fresh air in the bullethell/shmup genre. Unfortunately you’re just not getting a lot of bang for your buck right now.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling news, reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s an aspiring video game journalist, Baltimore native, and an on again/off again WoW player that blasphemously favors consoles over PC. As a Marylander, he naturally puts Old Bay on everything and loves the Orioles. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.