Half-Vice President, Half Killer Space Robot, CheneyStar threatens mankind. It is up to you to stop him in this arcade classic remake featuring hybrid 2D/3D game. Can you survive his devastating attacks and relentless insults?
CheneyStar is an obvious nod to Sinistar, the Williams' classic Johnny Death attempts to remake here, infused with political gags mostly centered around Dick Cheney, former United States of America Vice President. Just as Sinistar would taunt and berate players, so, too, does CheneyStar, spouting off numerous lines such as "I hunger for liberal flesh," "Killing you is easier than shooting a lawyer in the face," and "Is this the best Earth has to offer?" I'm not crazy about the forced political theme since it unnecessarily dates the game and potentially divides the audience, but Cheney has been a consistently unpopular political figure, so I doubt the latter will impact the game's reception much though the prospect of buying such a blatantly liberal themed product could certainly still turn off people. While politically infused games such as CheneyStar and Angry Barry do get some added publicity from the reference, it also brands them in such a manner that may not make the games as accessible to the general audience. With at least one and possibly more silly Communist bonus games in tow, there will be those who effectively boycott the game due to its content, which is a shame because CheneyStar is an excellent Sinistar remake.
The basic gameplay is the same as in Williams' arcade game -- the player controls a ship and must mine (re: shoot) asteroids for crystals to build bombs. Players need to collect 13 crystals in order to destroy CheneyStar, but it's not that easy. Enemy ships will be looking to acquire resources for themselves, mining asteroids or stealing any the player has left in space. Other ships will seek to attack and distract the player, stalling for time while CheneyStar is assembled. A threat level meter keeps track of the enemy's progress, and once all 13 parts of CheneyStar is completed, it announces its existence and seeks to kill the player. Should the player fail to destroy CheneyStar quickly enough, he or she is then stuck fleeing from the collasal death rock and its minions while trying to mine asteroids on the run. Some enemies will release power-ups which will help the player survive against the other ships by granting shields, spread shots, homing lasers, and more, but all that takes a backseat to CheneyStar, a mechanical beast with numerous attacks of its own. CheneyStar can create black holes, launch missiles, and generally make the game a decidedly one-sided fight. Sinistar was always one of the tougher arcade games of the time, and CheneyStar makes no amends for keeping that tradition alive.
The graphics in this unofficial remake are excellent, full of vibrant 3-D polygonal asteroids and enemies which rotate around a central point, allowing for the classic 2-D gameplay but with all the modern visual enhancements current technology has to offer. I love the use of nebulae to color the void of space, and the action is fast and smooth. Watching a fully functional CheneyStar unleash its might in the background is a treat, and I like how the "2.5-D" display allows for an easy means to check out the world without having to rely on the functionally archaic space map, helpful given that this Sinistar update is too fast moving to have the map data easily checked and interpreted during play. The cylindrical game environment does take a play or two to adjust to as there's little present to anchor the player's perception of movement through the 3-D asteroid field, and the "layers" of data placed on the map can be difficult if not impossible to determine if an object lay in the foreground, the background, or just off screen somewhere. I do wish that the crystals were a bit bigger as they're tiny enough to lose track of off screen, particularly in such a fast moving game. The audio is excellent with lots of dialogue though some players may be turned off by CheneyStar's vulgarity at times, which, like the Cheney reference itself, feels unnecessary for such a game.
Of course, it helps that CheneyStar is more than just a Sinistar remake. While most of the extras appear locked out from the demo, a somehow playable Killer Miss Venezuela proved to be simple, silly fun. Killer Miss Venezuela is a sort of side scrolling shooter featuring heavily pixelated graphics as the player controls Miss Venezuela as she guns down hordes of enemies, gets praised by Hugo Chavez, and confronts CheneyStar itself at the (presumably) game's end. Though there's a definite political influence at work here, CheneyStar does not take itself seriously and should prove to be good fun for most. It's a great looking and playing game (once players adjust to the depth of field view) which offers a good amount of variety at 80 points. I passed only because I'm not a big Sinistar fan, but there's no questioning the surprising amount of polish and variety CheneyStar delivers at just 80 points. Given how popular pseudo-arcade classic remakes have been over the past year or so, CheneyStar shows how to do it right with mostly faithful gameplay mixed with excellent modern graphics and sound which should please most any fan of the original.