Space Pirate Trainer has been around for quite some time now: It’s a VR wave-based shooter that first saw the starlight back in 2016 on PC VR devices and was then ported to PSVR and ended up becoming one of the more popular titles on that device. Today, we’re reviewing it on the Oculus Quest, showing that a game with a lot of movement can become quite a bit more fun if you remove all wires attached to your head.
At its core it’s just another wave-based shooter: you pretty much stay put while enemies come at you: there is no exploration or moving around other than physically dodging enemies and their incoming fire. But the gameplay itself is so much fun that you can easily lose yourself for a few hours, trying to improve your highscore and to see if you can make it past one more wave.
You’re a dual-wielding Space Pirate and it feels pretty badass if you’re shooting drones at different angles at the same time. For outsiders watching you play, it looks like a beautiful ballet performance (or like a madman swatting at mosquitos, depending on your personal finesse). Switching between weapons does take your attention away from the game, as you have to press the analog stick on each controller in the desired direction. My advice is to learn the locations of each gun on the radial menu by heart as you will not have time to spare.
You have quite an arsenal of weapons at your disposal to take care of everything the game throws at you though:
- a railgun
- a semi-auto pistol
- a shotgun
- a grenade launcher
- a laser beam
And those are just the modes on the standard gun. You can also reach behind your back and pick up a shield or a baton with a few functions of its own:
- you can laser-lasso enemies and throw them into obstacles or each other
- you can physically slash enemies close to you (possibly after first pulling them in)
- you can reflect enemy fire
- you can activate 3 different turrets on the platform
It’s a lot of fun trying to find a playstyle that works for you and it will require a well trained pirate to get on the leaderboards of the game. I think the best players probably swap between weapons a lot more, but I found myself resorting to the Shield + Ion Grenade Launcher most frequently, or dual-wielding the Semi-Auto Pistols. Without any shield equipped you do get a bit of a workout dodging bullets though. Luckily you enter a slow-mo mode when the bullets come flying and there is a useful audio-cue to tell you where they are coming from.
A pretty varied offering of enemies also keeps things fresh; the early waves start off with regular drones, but eventually, you’ll be facing shielded ones and swarms of fast-moving bots that are hard to hit but feel super-satisfying if you combo-kill them all with a well-placed grenade.
Also adding onto the variation are several power-ups that spawn randomly. From what looks like upgraded versions of your default arsenal to slightly wilder offerings like a rocket launcher, a helpful drone shooting targets for you or my personal life-saver: a few static shields to keep you out of harm’s way.
Those are a lot of elements to keep things fresh, but what I was really missing was a change of scenery. I’d have loved to see a few more platforms to shoot enemies from and the futuristic setting is sadly limited to just this one landing spot seemingly hovering above a city. It looks great, don’t get me wrong, but it would have vastly improved the overal experience if the environment was used to shake things up some more.
Likewise, a progression system of some sort would have also been welcome. I didn’t find myself to be improving all that much and something that would have pushed me to revisit the game more frequently would be a way to see your character grow. You get all guns from the get-go,which seems fair enough and also necessary for the competitive leaderboard scene, but perhaps unlocking them one by one would have added unto the motivation to keep playing.
I’ve heard there are weapon skins that you can unlock and other small cosmetic changes*, but from what I understand they require you to be a better player than whatever pathetic space pirate I’ve ended up being (perhaps I’ll remain a trainee for life)
*EDIT: Confirmed. It requires you to beat the boss, get a certain combo going or.. Survive wave 23 for one minute without using any equipment… That achievement is aptly called “panic at the Disco, by the way” 🙂 Good luck doing that on a VR device with cables attached to it!
Space Pirate Trainer is an incredibly fun wave-based shooter that will give you quite the work-out dodging all the incoming enemy fire. Leaderboard addicts will have a blast finding the optimal weapon-loadout and improving their run. It could have used a bit more content to keep the casual players occupied though, but it remains an easy recommended title for everyone with a VR set, especially at its low asking price.
(A review copy for Oculus Quest was provided by the developer)