There is something incredibly badass about a giant flaming space snake glaring at you into the depths of your soul. I knew before even putting this game in that it was going to fun! Again, this is a game I never knew existed until I got back into retro gaming and am happy that I found it! In terms of story I have no ideas what it is, but it doesn’t really matter because this is a straight-up arcade space shooter…with a twist!
In terms of actual gameplay, you take control of a little ship and must navigate the space to avoid obstacles and destroy enemies on a 2D scrolling (vertical or horizontal – it changes based on level)! As you destroy enemies, they occasionally drop power up orbs that can be used to upgrade your ship. The upgrade options are highlighted along the bottom of the screen, and once an orb is collected, the initial option (speed up) becomes available. At this point players can either take this upgrade and have to start collecting orbs all over or collect more to unlock more upgrades such as missiles, a ripple laser, laser beam, and even floating blobs that mimic what you do (i.e., shooting lasers and missiles).
I really liked this upgrade progression because it forces players to make strategic decisions with the limited upgrade orbs available. The only downside is that if you are destroyed, you loose all the upgrades. Occasionally, the floating blobs will remain behind and you can collect them again if you are quick but otherwise you need to start from scratch.
Another awesome addition to this game is ability to play CO-OP! Yes – you heard me right. You can play this game with a friend! I would highly recommend it as well because this game is HARD, and having help can make a difference (as long as they are good)! The introduction of a friend also adds a new layer of strategy and tension because there are only so many upgrade orbs available, so you will need to fight for them.
In terms of level design , this game uses both horizontal and vertical level types. While both of them play more or less the same, its a nice change of pase. All levels have tons of enemies and obstacles to avoid and are generally broken up into numerous sections. For instance, in the first level, players start in open space with tons of enemies, then enter an inside environment with walls materializing everywhrere (that need to be avoided), followed by a tunnel area with attacking teeth, and finally a boss encounter! This brings a lot of variety to the game and forces players to change their strategies in order to survive – and survive you will not!
This are is HARD! I could honestly only get to the end of level 2 on my own with all continues used. After loosing, I restarted with the Konami code after, thinking I would be able to beat the game but still only managed to get to the 5th of six total levels. While many parts of this game are fair difficulty-wise, the game is overly difficult at certain times.
For instance, the 2nd boss is extremely challenging (whereas most of the other ones aren’t), and the beginning of the 3rd level is almost impossible – fire blanckets the top and bottom of the screen and solar flares randomly jump from either direction and take up 1/2 the screen to kill you and destroyed enemies turn into fireballs that can kill you – not powerup orbs! …and this goes on for a LONG TIME! The difficulty made me dislike the game a bit, but once I got the Konami code in, it almost felt fair and I got to enjoy the majority of the game.
In terms of graphics, the game looks pretty good. The ship is fairly small, but that is good because you are a small target! There are lots of different enemies too ranging from space ships, to ground robots and cannnon towers! I was particulate impressed with the looks of the levels as each one has numerous different sections with each having a distinct look! While most games are like this (especially Gradius III) are known for slowdown, the game actually ran pretty well, but when the slowdown did happen it was actually helpful because so much was going on on screen. Like many classic Konami games, the music and sound effects was actually really good and helped energize the game!
In summary, Life Force is an fun but challenging shooter with unique multiplayer options and a cool upgrade system. This difficulty, while at times unfair, can be overcome with either godlike videogame playing or by using the Konami code (my preference) so that you can fully enjoy this fun game. Overall, I give this game an 7/10.
Final Score: 7/10