When I first saw Scud Frenzy on Steam, my thoughts immediately turned to the classic game Jetpac for the ZX Spectrum. This was mainly due to the fact that the two games share a similar concept; shooting at alien creatures while using a jetpack as your main mode of transport. As I delved into Scud Frenzy however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not a simple rehash, and instead takes the similar jetpack mechanics and puts them into a more substantial, cheap, and challenging package that is great fun in short bursts.
The first thing you’ll notice the moment you boot up Scud Frenzy is the art style. The game is entirely 2D but makes sure to have an art style that is consistent and that fits the mood and atmosphere of the game perfectly. The game is set in a fictional game show, and this is reflected by an abundance of spotlights and flashing signs. Your player character and his enemies are all designed in quite a cutesy way, with your character in particular having a chibi-esque style. Hazards such as sea mines also have eyes and mouths which continue the cutesy trend that the art style is striving for.
My biggest positive with the graphics is that it manages to make every item, hazard and enemy distinct enough for the player to easily spot, while still having them fit in with the art style of the game, without being too jarring. It’s a nice touch to see when graphics perfectly compliment the gameplay and I commend the effort made to prevent the graphics from becoming a mass of sprites that would make it hard to differentiate hazards and items. My only real gripe with the graphics is that they seem to be in a low resolution, making them look a little fuzzy during gameplay. It’s nothing major and overall the graphics are solid for a game in this style.
This game has very little story to speak of. The basic premise is that you’re in a game show known as ‘Scud Frenzy’, with your player character being known as a ‘Scud’. That’s about it. This is the kind of game that doesn’t strive for depth and is far more content with throwing you right into the gameplay rather than bogging you down with cut scenes and exposition. While it would be nice to have a story or a reason to fight besides a high score, this is the kind of game that doesn’t require a story and the experience isn’t affected massively by its absence.
With such little time dedicated to the story, you’d expect the gameplay to be the main focus, and this is very true for the most part. The gameplay is by far the best part of the game, although in itself it is not perfect. The basic aim is simple; you hop into 1 of 40 arenas and proceed to shoot everything that moves in order to rack up a high score. Only though earning a high enough score will the next level be accessible.
Thankfully, there is a bit more depth in regards to racking up a high score. While destroying or collecting almost anything will earn you points, some objects are worth more than others. Usually the ones with the highest value are locked behind doors, requiring you to search the map for a number of keys in order to acquire the spoils inside. The concept of simultaneously causing mindless destruction and navigating a stage for keys is a nice dynamic, and encourages some strategy in terms of how you engage a level. It is ill-advised to simply go for the keys, as throughout your run you need to constantly keep your Frenzy gauge topped up in order to acquire score multipliers to reach some of the higher scores. Learning the most destructive path to the keys is the best way to go. Collecting as many items as possible is necessary as well, as not only will new Scud customisation options become unlocked, but you can level up these items to make them worth more points, which is required for the later stages.
Scud Frenzy makes a commendable effort in trying not to become stale, with every level throwing new hazards, enemies and even new weapons into the mix in order to spice things up. Each hazard and enemy has its own strategy that the player will have to learn, encouraging multiple playthroughs. However, you eventually find yourself going through the same gameplay loop of jumping into a level, learning the best route, and repeating. The gameplay by nature is repetitive no matter how much you add to it, meaning the game is definitely more suited to short bursts as opposed to one big playthrough.
The game’s sound is its weakest point, although it isn’t necessarily bad. There is a game show announcer that is fully voice acted, often praising you for getting a high score or chastising you for not doing well enough. He gives off a classic game show vibe and he is a great inclusion in the game. The rest of the sounds however are rather generic or repetitive. Often you’ll hear the same gunshot and explosion noises over and over during a run, although I can appreciate that each different weapon upgrade has its own unique firing sound. The music is also quite generic with only a handful of tracks throughout the game. While it does fit into the aesthetic of the game, more variety in the music and sounds would have done wonders, especially in a longer playthrough.
Scud Frenzy’s basic gameplay of mindless destruction is cathartic and fun and the number of levels and options for replayability give it plenty of play time. However, the basic gameplay loop can get repetitive, and this isn’t helped by the equally repetitive music and sound. For as cheap as it is, it is definitely worth a look, although I would recommend you tackle it in short bursts in order to avoid being hit by the repetition too hard.