Infiltrate the alien base and take out the CPU! Find equipment to help you on your quest... a very straightforward storyline is what introduces a new 2008 release for the VIC 20. Blue Star was completely unexpected and out of the "blue" really. Already we have been treated to the awesome Astronell in recent times, which was a landmark Jet Set Willy clone for the unexpanded machine and Blue Star matches what Astronell achieved with a similar genre of game and the same RAM restrictions, but with its own little nice touches to make it stand out as a unique little game. In fact, rather than Jet Set Willy, this is more of a cross between Montezuma's Revenge and Forbidden Tower by Atlantis (although not as bloody rock hard as the later, I'm still in therapy because of that game...)
You start off controlling a rather cute looking robot (cute because he's around about a character in size) wandering around various single screens in search of the main CPU to destroy. Control is a delight with the very simple and non hair-pulling set of controls, with "fire" to jump and "up" to perform actions with some of the items you collect. You have complete control over your jumps, and the actions of the "up" control can also be used in mid-air (you'll find out about these actions later in the game). However, after a few screens you'll find some hard to reach platforms which you just cannot reach. It's here where your search begins to find equipment to aid your journey through the game. Find the jet pack later on one of the screens and you will find yourself then able to double jump to the higher platforms and really start to navigate around the map much more freely.
I'M BLUE DA BA DEE DA BA DIE
One thing that made me very happy whilst playing was that Blue Star does not suffer from an infinite death syndrome; Blue Star solves the problem by having an energy bar and a single life. Energy can be refilled at various points around the map whenever you pick up a collectable. To save space and ensure a good amount of screens within the game, the play area is kept down in size and there are ten unique screens which, with tweaks, span a nice sizable 62 screens in total. To be honest, you don't really notice repetition too much when playing through due to the clever cycling between screens and the variety of enemy and movement will ensure that things are kept relatively fresh. The colour schemes also change between some sections of the map quite effectively, and although the game looks fairly simple graphically the shading is done brilliantly and it's overall a nice clean looking game with some well throughout screens.
The enemies you will encounter are colourful, varied and animate very well; I think there are skulls, bats and mini dragons but it's hard to tell as the game is using the VIC's chunky multi-colour mode to get the colour ranges and everything is a single character in size. Each enemy has a different personality though, the bats are slightly dumb and fly around the screen freely but the skull look-alikes in later parts of the game will follow you around and can be a pain in the backside, draining your energy reserves. Without giving too much of the game away, you will find ways of later "removing" these creatures and allowing you to progress even further still with a bit more ease.
After playing for even two minutes you'll find that something really starts the grate a bit, and that would be the background tune. It's actually a quite cool eerie little ditty and sound effects nicely play over the top of the tune, but it plays for about four seconds and just loops constantly. Given the lack of memory, you'll forgive Blue Star for this little inconvenience, but you may want to turn down the volume a tad after a while.
Since its initial release, the game has seen a few tweaks and changes, including the addition of a simple but effective title screen and logo, removal of various bugs and also Joystick support and all of this without affecting its memory requirements. Quite simply amazing! Blue Star overall is a sheer pleasure to play and a lot of fun - but there is one gripe that I sadly have as a result of it being so, and that it is too blimmin' short! It will provide a good challenge for its unexpanded size, and completing the game in under a hundred jiffies (the units used by the game's timer) will ensure that you will replay many times to do so, but I just wish the game was that little bit longer with a bit more to do. It seems that it was crucial to keep the game working on a stock unexpanded VIC 20, which although is an amazing feat, at the same time is a bit of a shame as I would have loved to have seen more of this game in say a 8 or 16K expansion.
Don't take that wrong, this isn't a huge criticism of the game but a show of my passion for the title overall and how much I have really enjoyed playing it. If you love your VIC 20 games, then you would be crazy to not check Blue Star out, especially with it being free! We are seeing some fantastic new VIC 20 games in recent years, with Blue Star raising the bar that little bit more. See if you can succeed in less than that hundred space jiffies... I did, and it was bloody good fun too!