The shoot ‘em up genre has been around for almost as long as video games have existed. Whereas many shmups are deadly serious, there are also a fair number of humorous ones like Parodius, Cho Aniki, and Freedom Finger. Another such game has just arrived on Xbox after first launching on Steam and Switch: Q-Yo Blaster from Team Robot Black Hat and Forever Entertainment. It’s certainly one of the silliest games I’ve played. Thankfully, that silliness can be enjoyed with a friend in 2-player local co-op.
A silly game needs a silly story, and Q-Yo Blaster (pronounced “Koo-Yo Blaster”) has a very goofy story. The lengthy introduction basically explains that a group of helpful aliens has joined forces with heroes from Earth to save our planet from an asteroid containing a malevolent worm. Additional cinematics take place between each stage. Unfortunately, the narrative makes very little sense. Some of that owes to the game’s deliberate wackiness, but translation issues bog down the text as well. It reads like it was machine translated, full of grammatical errors that often obscure the intended meaning. You’ll probably want to skip the story.
Story issues aside, the playable characters fall on the good side of wacky. They’re broken up into three categories of five characters each, making for a total of 15 characters. These include Mr. Cheeks the guinea pig, a bloody dog’s head, a robot, several anime-style people, and more. Each character has varying stats for damage, speed, and rate of fire. Their projectiles vary, but otherwise, they all play the same. Players must also choose between a superweapon or shield that can be activated when a meter fills up. The shield runs out too quickly to be useful, so I prefer the superweapon.
Q-Yo Blaster is a horizontally scrolling shoot ‘em up consisting of 10 levels, each with one or more comical bosses at the end. As with most shmups, one hit kills the player, but you do have some defensive options here. One button is dedicated to the pulse move, which eliminates any bullets that immediately surround the player. Pulse requires power-ups to use. Only three can be stored at a time, so they must be used sparingly. At the bottom of the screen are two additional meters that fill by shooting enemies: one for the superweapon/shield and another that briefly clears the screen of fire when it fills. That screen-clearing thing happens without direct player input – too random to be much help.
After completing the main ‘Classic’ game on either of two difficulty levels, the extra challenging Arcade Extreme mode unlocks. Both Classic and Arcade Extreme support 2-player local co-op. In co-op, each player gets their own credits, so it’s possible for one teammate to run out of continues while their partner keeps going. I would prefer a larger shared credits pool, but the divided credits thing does make it possible to play 1-player, use up that player’s credits, and then jump in one a second controller to get farther.
Co-op is helpful in Q-Yo Blaster, but the Xbox version suffers from some odd quirks. For instance, whenever either player continues, the game brings up the pause menu. That’s bad because you can accidentally quit the game when it suddenly pauses, which happened to us twice. Even if you don’t quit by mistake, the automatic pausing still interrupts the flow of the game.
Even stranger, when two profiles are signed in on Xbox, the game makes whichever profile signed in last be the first player. The first profile is forced to act as second player; there’s no way around it. Most games would assign whichever profile that launched the game to be the first player. This game doesn’t do that, nor does it even have an option to switch profiles at all. This weird handling of multiple profiles makes no sense, and the game probably shouldn’t have passed Xbox certification with such an egregious issue. That said, the workaround is to make sure only one profile is signed in when playing. The second controller doesn’t need to be signed in to a different profile than the first player.
The positive side to the Xbox version’s quirks is that, if two profiles are signed in, both players earn Achievements in this game! That’s such a rarity nowadays. In fact, if one player dies but the remaining player unlocks an Achievement, both players still get the Achievement. Maybe that shouldn’t happen, but I won’t complain about an error that benefits the gamer.
Q-Yo Blaster is a strange shoot ‘em up that’s teeming with bizarre enemies, characters, and quirks. That general weirdness really isn’t a bad thing. The in-game art is colorful and charming, and the music’s not bad, either. I wish the Xbox version didn’t have the weird co-op profile and pause-on-continue issues, but neither problem spoils the experience too much. If you need some kooky co-op in your life, let Q-Yo Blaster fill it with silly thrills.
An Xbox code was provided by the publisher for review.
The Co-Op Experience: Each player selects their character and then they blast away the enemies together.
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