Review: Laserlife (PS4)

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Title: Laserlife
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.1 GB)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Choice Provisions
Developer: Choice Provisions
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
Laserlife is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I wanted to like Laserlife more than I did. The premise, as I had heard from Jason on the podcast, is that the game involves a dead astronaut left floating in space after an accident on a space ship. Aliens discover the body and attempt to unlock the astronaut’s memories using a rhythm-game-like method. Unfortunately, while there is nothing horribly wrong with Laserlife, I couldn’t get into the game nearly as much as I would have hoped.

The game plays out between twelve different stages, each of which has three sections. The first is where the rhythm game comparison comes in the most. During this section there are two lasers, each controlled by one of the analog sticks on the controller. Targets will scroll towards the screen and the player has to direct the laser towards them, then press either L2 or R2 to grab the target. Later stages also add targets that require the player to hold L2/R2 or slide the analog stick to grab.

The second section is similar to the first except that the player doesn’t need to use L2 and R2 anymore. Simply directing the laser into the targets collects them, similar to Entwined. Finally, the last section of each stage has the player directing the lasers to avoid big red blocks that fly towards the screen.

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On paper, this system seems like it would be alright but in practice the game is less ideal. The first section always felt a little mushy to me. Perhaps the ‘give’ inherent in the L2/R2 triggers makes the game feel less tactile than it should. I would have liked to have tried the game using L1/R1 instead but I didn’t see any options to do that.

I can only imagine that this would be worse on the DualShock 3 but even on the DS4 I found my thumbs constantly getting tired. Keeping my thumb on the analog stick and spinning them around nearly constantly proved to be a bit much.

… never felt like it was “charted” to line up with the song …
Deep into the game, I finally figured out that I should really return my thumb/the analog stick to neutral when I wasn’t using that side. This is slightly counterintuitive from other rhythm games where I will often hover over the next note as soon as I see what I need to press.

Another thing that made me hesitant to consider this game a rhythm game was the music. The twelve stages are split into three groups, with each group representing a different era in the astronaut’s life. The first section of each stage is the same song throughout the same group and this section of each stage never felt like it was “charted” to line up with the song, at least on the medium difficulty that I played most of the game on. There are also easy and hard difficulties that can be selected via the options.

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Oddly, the second section of each stage does have different music on each stage and the targets also seemed a lot more aligned to cues in the music. The game doesn’t rate the player on how well they hit each target though, since this section doesn’t use the L2/R2 triggers.

That’s about it for the gameplay. During the second section of each stage, memories begin to form and at the end of each stage an object is brought to light that had some impact on the astronaut’s life: a dog from childhood or the spacecraft before the accident. There’s no real story outside of just pulling up that object and I probably wouldn’t have had nearly as much of an idea of the premise if not for listening to Jason talk about it.

… would have been nice to have some variety …
Visuals:
There isn’t much to look at in Laserlife but what is there looks nice. Much like the music, the first section of each stage is the same within each group so the player is flying around through the same thing. It’s less of a deal breaker than the music being the same but it still would have been nice to have some variety there. The second section of each stage is nice though as the memories form and pieces of the astronaut’s memories come together in the background.

The way the targets fly at the screen was occasionally misleading but that may be intentional to keep the game interesting. There were also a few times that the targets blended in a bit too much with the background, perhaps most noticeable during the first group of stages.

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Audio:
As mentioned previously, one of my biggest issues with Laserlife was how each stage in a group starts out with the same music. I’m not sure what the intent was here, maybe some kind of narrative choice to show where the memories are coming from. There may have been slight differences between the stages but if there were, they were subtle enough that I didn’t notice.

Still, what is in the game is nice. Most of the music in the game is drum’n’bass-ish and I generally enjoyed it even with some of the repetition.

… left something to be desired …
Online/Multiplayer:
The only online feature is a leaderboard. The leaderboard is split up for each stage and again for each difficulty.

Conclusion:
While there isn’t anything horribly wrong with Laserlife, there also isn’t anything outstanding either. I like the idea behind both the story and the gameplay mechanics but in execution both left something to be desired.

With the rhythm game section feeling a little mushy and with some of the repetition, I’d have a hard time recommending the game too highly except maybe to those who really want to try something different.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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