I've never had a problem with cookie-cutter games - provided the cookie dough isn't stale and the mold wasn't cast 20 years ago. Unfortunately, those are precisely the things you get with Juggernaut Corps: First Assault, a 2D space shooter that resolutely follows the formulaic guidelines of the genre like a radar beam tracking invading extraterrestrials.
The alien menace du jour is Species CAN-8932, and its ships have started popping through wormholes located in the space controlled by the Alliance (the good guys). Although we're not told if these wormholes were created by the Alliance or were simply annexed by it in a typical show of "might makes right," the wormholes nevertheless are the key to the Alliance's survival - and the alien ships are causing them to become unstable. As per usual when repelling alien invasions, only one brave pilot will get a chance to battle the wormhole-usurping hordes because the force-field access code that will allow Alliance fighters past the enemy's outer defenses can only be used by a single ship.
On the back of the jewel case it says that Juggernaut Corps can run at resolutions of up to 1280x1024, so after finding the standard 640x480 display too cramped for effective maneuvering I began scouring all the game's menus for an option to resize the display. No luck there, so I checked the README and HELP files - and again came up empty-handed. Turns out the only place this little tidbit is revealed is at the Juggernaut Corps web site. It's nice that the info is online, but that doesn't make up for the absence of such basic instructions in the game manual or help files.
Once you do set the resolution to your liking, you'll discover a standard space shooter with all the usual features: nine weapon types (one is the Armageddon weapon, which takes a while to assemble by collecting hidden pieces), seven ship types, power-ups for shields and hull, and seemingly countless waves of enemies to destroy over the course of the game's 35 levels.
You've probably heard that space is curved, but in Juggernaut Corps it's square and enclosed: The sides of the display are walls in this 2D world, and hitting one sends you careening back into battle. While you might get a brief kick out of ricocheting shots from your crystal cannon off the walls and into an enemy base, chances are you'll soon tire of the closed play field. An option to toggle this on and off should be in the game options (along with a way to change the resolution), but instead you have to use a "cheat code" to bring down the barriers.
Gameplay is simple in the extreme - you can move forward, backward, and laterally (strafing) as you keep up a near-constant stream of fire in the face of scores and scores of enemies on each level. There's no "hyperwarp" to jump out of trouble and no "smart bomb" to destroy all enemies at once - two features that would go a long way in making this game a little less frustrating. Instead, about the only things you can do to even up the odds are grab new weapons and ammo and, most importantly, pick up those shield and hull power-ups if you hope to stay alive.
That probably sounds fair enough, but you might feel differently after you see a shield power-up disappear just as you're about to grab it. And grabbing new weapons isn't always such a good idea: Your ship automatically arms itself with whatever weapon you grab, and often you'll have to switch from the weak, newly acquired weapon to the one you had selected before you picked it up. One solution would be to avoid grabbing weak weapons, but that can be pretty difficult considering how small the weapon icons are and how much space you're covering in a frantic fight to avoid destruction. The real solution would have been to put in an option that would let you choose whether new weapons should be armed immediately
Juggernaut Corps runs smoothly enough even at very high resolutions, and while the graphics aren't anything special, they're more than good enough for the task at hand. But after just a few levels all the action and enemies begin to look and feel the same, even when you face new types of ships and bases. This is a tough nut to crack even on the medium difficulty level, thanks largely to the inclusion of scores of tiny, swarming enemies that'll bring you down faster than you can say Asteroids. I found them incredibly frustrating to deal with because you should use your weakest weapons against them, conserving ammo for the high-power stuff to use against more resilient enemies - which means you wind up either fumbling around to constantly switch weapons or using a sledgehammer to crush an interstellar mosquito.
Multiplayer options are pretty limited, with play over a LAN the only way to compete against friends. That's too bad, because judging from the single-player mode it looks like flying against a bunch of friends would probably yield the most satisfaction. Then again, maybe it wouldn't: Multiplayer games can only be played in the stifling 640x480 display, and things would get pretty crowded with six or seven players trying to navigate and fight in those tight confines.
The best that can be said about it is that it's an adequate 2D shooter with an attractive price tag. I'm sure there are some folks out there who've still got a jones for this stuff, and for them Juggernaut Corps could be a lot of fun. But if you feel like you've already saved enough 2D galaxies, Juggernaut Corps doesn't offer enough new features - either in gameplay or eye candy - to make it worth more than a passing glance.