JASEM: Just Another Shooter with Electronic Music currently has a positive Steam user review score. Of 25 reviews that count, according to Steam’s requirements, almost eighty percent regard the game favorably. As a result, I was eager to give the game an opportunity. This is because it’s rare for me to disagree with the majority of Steam players. Unfortunately, this is an example of a game that just didn’t resonate with me.
JASEM’s Presentation is Cool
Let’s start with the positive and work our way backward. It’s clearly the presentation that gets JASEM the positive reviews. Although the game relies on a rather basic color palette it utilizes it superbly. The effects of the weapons and the explosions are impressive. The explosions are bright, the weapons are sweet and the neon lighting is all personal highlights. Clearly, Shostak possesses a deeper understanding of what makes a game visually appealing.
Secondly, although some may find the soundtrack to be somewhat generic it works well with the game. It is also audibly pleasing for those not playing or focusing on the game. This isn’t something that I have written in a review before but I feel is notable here. This is because my housemate arrived home in the middle of me playing. I generally always reach for my headset to continue playing. However, this time my housemate requested that I keep the sound playing. They were enjoying the electronic music and even the explosions. Therefore, I have nothing but compliments on the audio design of the game.
A Tutorial That Serves No Purpose…
The first problem that I have with the tutorial is that the player doesn’t even know it’s a tutorial level. That is until you complete it, and you’re awarded the achievement. Secondly, the tutorial doesn’t teach you much of anything. There are no details. Essentially, the player is in a sandbox with the expectation of working out everything for themselves. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this defeats the purpose of a tutorial. This is because a tutorial should teach the player how to play the player and guide them through this process.
There is, however, two saving graces for it. Firstly, it provides the player with a taste of what is to come. It’s an appetizer. This is because it plays and feels like the first level of the game. Secondly, the aforementioned achievement. Achievements provide an extrinsic and cognitive award for completing something. Completing a level, which the tutorial is, is a good reason for an achievement.
… Followed Closely by a Game Without a Purpose
Shostak to his credit doesn’t hide the fact that JASEM serves no greater purpose. It’s there for everyone to see on the Steam store page.
Do you need any reason to shoot your enemies in game? Because JASEM doesn’t give you one. Just you, your weapons, crazy beats and enemies. And you need to shoot every one of them, and it’s up to you to make it the most hilarious and explosive way.
Essentially, it is Shostak telling you that what he has created is a shooter without a purpose. It features predefined levels with a given amount of enemies on each level. To progress, you need to kill each enemy. It’s that simple. Consequently, the game lacks a story, a meaning, and a purpose.
Room for Improvement
In my opinion, the game would have been significantly better if the levels were procedurally generated. This would, at least, increase its replayability. Unfortunately, the only reason to replay the game is if you fail to complete each level without dying as there is an achievement for doing so. However, you will face the same level with the same enemies and obstacles. As a result, the game becomes tedious if you’re a moderately skilled achievement hunter.
Furthermore, a second suggestion would have been to make the game a huge sandbox. Sandboxes are perfect for games that don’t want to invest in a specific purpose. This is because they enable the player to create one for themselves.
The reason why I’m disappointed in the game is that there are some nice ideas here. The game isn’t completely without merit. It plays rather well despite its clear limitations. Unfortunately, I feel as though I was presented with a tech demo for a better, more polished, product. Adding either of the aforementioned features would make the game feel more developed rather than it being a part of a game jam.
Shostak understands the extrinsic value of games on Steam. This game features a set of Steam trading cards and achievements. Further, there’s a collectors edition of the game. This edition comes packaged with the official soundtrack of the game. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much point in additional DLC to be released nor is there likely to be.
The weaknesses of JASEM hold it back from being an indie gem. As a result, it is nothing more than a way to fire away your frustrations for a few minutes. This may be the intention of Shostak. However, it could have been so much more. It should be a weightier title offering more drivers for the player to not only buy but to play.
Unfortunately, this is a game that is a prime candidate for a cheap indie bundle. In other words, shovelware. Sadly, there is an overabundance of that on Steam as it is. Therefore, I cannot recommend the game to anyone who isn’t a trading card collector or an achievement hunter.
On the other hand, I am looking forward to seeing what Shostak develops next. Both this and his other game, Tribal Pass, have features marking them as highly promising. Consequently, it is only a matter of time before he delivers a genuine hit. I can’t wait!