Review: “Remote Life” (Nintendo Switch)

Have you ever played R-Type? That’s what I thought when I first saw Remote Life.* However, other than the fact that it is a horizontal-scrolling shooter with space ships, Remote Life offers up a pretty different experience. It also does quite a lot of things right, but the mechanics don’t quite stick the landing (even in zero gravity). But first, the good news…

For better or worse, atmosphere in Remote Life is one that is familiar for 2D shooter fans. There is a horde of twisted, demonic looking, alien types laying their eggs all over space, each one ready to hatch and instinctively destroy you. If you like creepy alien types, then Remote Life delivers. Most levels are dark, and full of various enemy aliens and their offspring, but the gameplay mixes things up between levels by changing your mission. Some stages are standard, others are escort missions, and others are free-roaming mazes. This break in pace was welcome, even though I generally don’t care much for escort levels in general. At least in Remote Life, I learned that you can fly through the ship you are escorting to safety without taking any damage… though it took longer than it should have before I realized that! Yeah, I felt pretty stoooopid, but I was happy when I figured it out.

Look at all the dead bodies floating around up here.

Remote Life’s soundtrack is pretty rockin’, and it definitely got me pumped up to keep playing; so much so, that I cranked up the volume to bask in the sounds. The effects themselves were fairly standard, but the voices were created by one of those voice generator software programs, so it just sounds like a computer talking to you. I understand not having professional voice acting in smaller games like this, but it is something that is just worth mentioning for those who prefer a really-real human voice. Personally, it didn’t change my thoughts on the game one way or the other. 

So the computerized voice also pushes you through the story of the game, which is pretty much what you would expect… You know, lone warrior fighting a war against all odds… blah, blah, blah. Do you play a 2D space shooter for its deep story? Well, Remote Life actually does have a few twists and turns to keep things interesting, so for those looking to connect to the plot, there are a few moments to look forward to. 

This guy means it’s time for another escort level!  Joy.

The gameplay itself is similar to other games of the genre. As you progress, you unlock new ships that each control a bit faster than their predecessors. You pick up power-ups for your three different weapon types, and there are also a few different bomb types you can pick up, so it’s not just the standard “push button, blow everything up” kind of thing. The power-ups are generally pretty cool, but they also have limited ammunition. I understand limiting bombs in these kinds of games, but it’s disheartening to grab a sweet power up to only get a few shots with it. Granted, there are plenty of these power-ups to pick up, but I just prefer building up my weapons over time and then having a full arsenal at my disposal. Limited ammo just has me leery to use my good weapons in fear that I may need them at any moment… which generally never comes. Enemies and their bullets are plenty, but pretty much everything they throw at you can be destroyed… even the tiniest of bullets!

Sweet!  Ammo refills for guns I haven’t even fired yet!

The biggest challenge I encountered playing Remote Life is how you get thrown into situations where the “walls” (pillars?) would close in on you, preventing you from being able to do anything other than sacrifice one of your lives unless you knew it was coming. These cheap deaths were frustrating, as you really don’t notice these traps in time with so much else going on at once. This makes memorization a key part in in advancing without getting clobbered by cheap deaths.

Speaking of cheap, how is it that the aliens can shoot their bullets through walls, but you can’t (at least with most of your weapons)? I get the idea, and since you can destroy their bullets, it really wasn’t that big of a deal, but definitely something I noticed and thought was kind of funny, for lack of a better word. At least you can generally see the bullets coming, unlike having one of those damned worms pop out right in front of you! Ugh! The worms… 

See those pillars closing in behind me?  How about those worms directly in front of me? Joy.

Remember the enemy eggs I mentioned above? Pretty interesting having all these eggs that will hatch into worms to hunt you down, but sometimes the eggs get lost in the visuals of the background, and unless I was shooting at them, I didn’t even realize there were eggs there. There were also multiple times that I thought I destroyed an egg, only to have a worm pop out of it anyway. Again, this is where trial and error rewards your persistence, but those freakin’ worms killed me way more than I would like to admit.

And while we are talking about the various ways to die, Remote Life also throws enemies at you from the rear of the screen. There is an option to give you a quick “heads-up” that something is coming, but it’s frequently too late to matter. So, between getting rammed from behind (*snick!*) by an enemy fighter, walls that suddenly close up in front of you, and pillars coming out of the top or bottom of the screen at any given time, you pretty much don’t want to be hugging the walls or the edges of the screen unless you’ve already memorized each level’s layout. Even so, chances are, you will die a lot before mastering Remote Life.

That’s really where I think Remote Life struggled the most. Too much of the gameplay forces you to stay within such a narrow area of the screen. One tiny tap in the wrong direction while waiting for some wall to open up or dashing between a barrage of bullets coming towards you… Yeah, you’ll probably have a few deaths. But, as I mentioned before, once you memorize the levels, you can strategically work these areas better with each playthrough. 

See that red line near the back of the screen? That means you’re about to take it up the rear!

Despite all of its frustrations, I like Remote Life, and it definitely remains enjoyable to play. Funny thing, (oh, the developers may not want to hear this) but when I was younger, my friends and I all had a running joke about Atari Jaguar games looking great in the magazine advertisements and box art, but when you finally played them, they would have terrible animation, annoying computer-voiced speech, and no music at all. (Oh, the days before Internet videos) While playing Remote Life, it felt like I was playing a modern-era Atari Jaguar game… only this time, Remote Life at least got the music right! 

Not to badmouth the Jaguar though, as I admit to not only owning one, but also really enjoying several games on the console… Hey, a remaster of Trevor McFur in Crescent Galaxy COULD actually be a decent game if the Remote Life guys wanted to teach those guys a thing or two!

I suppose if I’m going on about the Jaguar again, then I must be out of things to say about Remote Life. I should mention that the game is available not just on Nintendo Switch, but also for PS4, PS5, Xbone, SeXbox and Steam PC.

Game over, man

*Disclosure: A copy of Remote Life for Nintendo Switch was provided to The Splintering by Ratalaika Games for the purposes of this review.

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