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Publisher: Ambrosia Software    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: Any Version

SketchFighter 4000 Alpha
February 1, 2007 | Michael Wuerthele

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When I was seven, my parents took me to see Star Wars. I was that kid in your class who saw it first, and shared the glories of the story with all who would listen, much to the annoyance of most. Back in the day, there were four action figures in a cardboard box shipped direct to you from Kenner. With there not being anything in the way of vehicles for the figures to blow stuff up, I turned to paper and pencil to goof off and blast away at the evil empire and whatever baddies I could sketch. None of these sketches made it to the modern age, regretfully, but Sketchfighter 4000 Alpha from Ambrosia Software gleefully animates those bored sketches made during 6th period study hall. Epic space battles on a limitless canvas. Did everyone sketch space battles on their supermarket bag bookcovers in school, or was it just me?

Sketchfighter is a shooter, plain and simple. If itís moving, shoot it! Initially, your sad Asteroids-style arrowhead fighter has single colored pellets. As the game advances, so does the weaponry, assuming youíve take the time to figure out how to get to the advanced weaponry. Different colors of pellets works better against different enemies, so a bit of experimentation is needed to really figure out what works the best. Pellets arenít your only means of dealing death to nasty alien critters in the tunnels- you accumulate missiles and other forms of cannonry as you go in a fairly standard progression. Note that the progression isnít bad- the difficulty of the levels and the weapon upgrades pace themselves, and thereís very few tear your hair out spots that make you want to quit the game in irritation.

Sketchfighter isnít like most shooters, where the first contact with an enemy bullet ends you. A health gage is depleted as you slam into objects or bullets hit you. Fortunately, boulders exist all over the place to blast, revealing health pellets inside to regenerate your ship. In early stages of play, when I wasnít so adept at piloting the ship, I often hit the cavern walls and did more damage to myself than the health gave me back, but this changed as I dealt with how the ship controlled. What can I say, my fingers arenít as nimble as they used to be.

Old school Macintosh gamers may remember Oids and Continuum. This game doesnít use Asteroid-style Newtonian movement (mass in motion maintains the same velocity unless countered), but rather, you thrust in a direction, briefly coast, then stop. Initially on the Ambrosia forums, there was a little hate and discontent about that, but I personally think that the levels arenít designed for that aspect, and donít find it a bother at all. While there are repulsing enemies that push you away until theyíre dealt with, the movement is handled well, and smoothly.

Save spots are uncommon, but not horribly so. Thereís various schools of thought on this in gaming, and Sketchfighter skews toward the infrequent save spot that you have to locate. This was only initially frustrating as when I first started playing the game, I didnít trip the checkpoint right after the first boss battle and promptly died by being stupid. Back to the beginning of the previous level for me! Thatís a lesson you only have to learn once, and when you do, itís fairly smooth sailing.


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