Space Pirate Trainer is right up there as one of the games that are leading the pack of shooters on the Oculus Quest.
After nearly four months since launch, the most popular genre on the Oculus Quest store has to be shooters. Wielding any kind of pistol in VR can be very satisfying, so it is no surprise that shooters are a popular genre. Having played a few now, I believe Space Pirate Trainer is right up there, as one of the games that are leading the pack of shooters on the Oculus Quest.
For anyone owning an Oculus Quest, it’s highly likely that you have already sampled all the free demos that are currently available for the Oculus Quest – Space Pirate Trainer is amongst one of them. The demo was great fun, but it is very short-lived. Since playing the full game I think it’s demo really doesn’t do the full game justice.
As the demo suggests, Space Pirate Trainer is a hi-score shooter. The full game consists of four modes: Arcade, Explorer, Hardcore and Old School. In each mode you face increasing waves of flying droids, each randomly manoeuvring around the floating space platform you’re standing on. Your score and lives are displayed ahead of you, along with a radar that helps as an at-a-glance overview of where and what kind of drones are about to enter into your field of view. Once the action heats up though, you rarely have the chance to look at it.
Each wave you face has you clearing a particular amount of droids before the next wave of flying droids is introduced. You have two main weapons at your disposal, a pistol and a beam/shield weapon; both are toggled by reaching over your shoulder to swap them. The game’s main pistol weapon has six different firing modes, each of them can be toggled by using one of six directions of the analogue stick on each controller. You can toggle between single and rapid-fire modes, a shotgun spread mode, a railgun laser, a continuous beam laser and finally a projectile grenade that you can explode with a second press of the trigger button. You can choose to have a different fire mode for each pistol in your hands, however, if you want a more defensive advantage, you can reach over your back to pull out the game’s defensive shield weapon.
The shield weapon is the game’s more defensive weapon. Its primary advantage is to block incoming attacks from the lasers and rockets that you either have to dodge or destroy. Wielding a pistol in one hand and a shield in the other feels both great and intuitive. When fire rains down on you, you really do have to rely on the help from your shield to block them, all whilst attacking with your pistol in the other hand.
This weapon also has a fun alternative mode, toggled by selecting one of two options with the analogue stick. Pointing this weapon at a drone and pulling the trigger will send out a Ghostbusters’ Proton Pack-like beam that will latch onto an enemy droid and pulls it towards you. With this, you can slam them into the platform to damage or destroy them, or pull them towards you and slice them in half with the laser beam that’s fixed on the back of it. You can also ricochet oncoming lasers back at the enemy droids with this weapon, so as you can probably tell, you can get by just as well using this weapon alone and heavier weapons that are located around you.
Located on the platform behind you are also larger beam weapons and turrets that you can use the shield weapon to trigger and control their operation. These heavier weapons carry more damaging firepower, however, they will not last as long and they are harder to control more accurately. Because of this, I found they should be used more sparingly or when you need to randomly spread return fire at a tight group of droids.
Some modes, including Arcade mode, features three lives, so as soon as you’re hit three times by droid fire, it’s game over. There are also power-up drops too in this Arcade mode, which increases your rate of pistol fire, trigger rocket fire and launch shields around you, to sending out a friendly droid ship that will chase down and destroy any droids remaining in your airspace – which is handy when things get a little intense and you need a little help.
The second Explorer mode allows you to regenerate your three lives over time. So think of this as a ‘Zen’ mode, but with some punishment, and very much less ‘Zen’. As Space Pirate Trainer is a hi-score shooter, points in this mode have a less overall score to them, half in fact. Due to your health regeneration, it does makes this mode a little easier to play, but it is still challenging in latter waves. If you want a true challenge from the getgo, the next Hardcore mode will be for you.
In Hardcore mode, the game plays out similar to Arcade, however, you get no bullet time. Bullet time occurs when the flying drones shoot back at you, giving you some time to dodge incoming fire, block or ricochet them with your defensive weapon. Without any bullet time in this mode, you have to be super nimble with your dodging skills or be a pro at blocking with your defensive weapon.
Finally, there is the Old School mode. This mode plays how the original beta mode of the game played when the game released on other VR platforms. It plays similar to Arcade mode, but without the aid of the power-ups that drop in the game, as they do in the updated Arcade mode.
I like that the developers have allowed you the ability to drop into a specific Wave that you have previously unlocked. You can jump into Wave 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 35. This is great if you wish to jump straight back into a wave nearest to when you last died. You can fast-track yourself back into earning the game’s unlockables without restarting and playing through all the previous waves, only to be beaten along the way, or die soon after reaching it.
If chasing hi-scores aren’t your thing, then there are a few unlockables to earn in the game, from weapon skins to a change of environment. Sadly, you need to be a decent Space Pirate to earn any of these unlockables. You need to unlock Wave 30 to unlock the one extra environment, whilst the weapon skins require you to achieve tasks such as defeating the Mother droid, reaching x12 multiplier to lasting over a minute without firing your weapon or using the shield in Wave 23.
For just £10.99 from the Oculus Store, the price is justified, because there are a few hours worth of fun to be had in Space Pirate Trainer. It’s underlying gameplay feels relatively simple on the surface, yet its variety of weapon modes, challenging unlockables, great visuals, online leaderboards and an awesome soundtrack all keep you coming back for that ‘just one more go’, as you desperately attempt to reach the next Wave milestone. If you’re into your shooters (and who isn’t?), if you’ve yet to pick up this classic launch title shooter, make sure it’s the next thing you do.