Shoot-'em-up fanatics now have another weapon for their Game Boy Color arsenals, this time in the form of Sunsoft's vertical scrolling space shooter, Project S-11. In it, you are the pilot of the top secret S-11 spacecraft, humankind's last defense against an impending alien invasion. Your mission is to pilot the S-11 into space, thwart the advancing enemies, and follow them to their home planet of Cephei. Developed by Paragon 5, the game will lead you through eight levels of old-school blasting action, complete with five different weapons, more than 20 enemies, and 16 unique bosses.
Similar to the game 1942, Project S-11 pits a lone ship against scores of enemies. As the eight different jungle, moon, and interstellar backdrops pass by, your goal is simply to shoot everything that moves, avoid anything solid, and destroy the boss that awaits at the end of each level. A shield meter affords limited protection against bullets and ship hazards, but once it reaches baseline, you lose a life. Lose all four, and it's game over for planet Earth. The formula is the same one we've all witnessed since the days of the Atari: move, shoot, drop bombs, and try to stay alive. Project S-11 is a more difficult game than 1942, but nothing that twitch-happy shoot-'em-up fans can't beat within a few weeks.
As is common in games of the genre, the destruction of certain enemies unleashes different weapon upgrades. Here, too, Project S-11 doesn't stray from the norm, but the execution is comfortable nonetheless. There are five unique weapons: missile, laser, spread shot, spiral shot, and flame fountain. Each weapon has seven levels of charge, four of which are gained through power-up collection, while the other three are time-based. Indeed, staying alive is Project S-11's main gameplay hook. The more enemies you shoot down and the further you progress, the stronger your weapons become and the more ships you'll earn.
From a presentation standpoint, Project S-11 incorporates a number of gimmicks that elevate it above its otherwise dated appearance. Visually speaking, as the terrain flows by and plenty of multicolored ships pour onto the screen, you'll likely be moved by the game's use of flowing water, heat-distorted volcanoes, and large quarter-screen boss characters. Somehow Paragon 5 has managed to do this with zero hint of flicker and little slowdown. On the audio front, a bass-laden rock soundtrack and crisp explosion effects defy the Game Boy's reputation for having garbled sound.
To be honest, Project S-11 is about the best the GBC is going to see in terms of space shooters. Although the game never reaches its full potential, it is still a very promising release for those who consider themselves die-hard shooter fans. Considering the game's sub-$20 release price, it's not a bad bargain or gift idea either.