In the far future when we no longer need to hunt dangerous space monsters for food, it seems obvious to continue hunting them for sport too. In Blacksea Odyssey you can jump into the boots of one such hunter entering the titular tournament, a contest that only one has completed before. This in no way surprises me, because this game is hard as balls.
Taking heavy Lovecraftian inspiration, this twin-stick shooter sees you throwing spears into the fleshy insides of the most fantastical beasts, from butterflies that open up lengthways in an attempt to eat you, to three headed frogs that try to lick you with poisonous tongues. My biggest compliment for Blacksea is how great it looks: all the monsters and arenas are beautiful in their own grotesque way.
Before each round, you find yourself talking to your competition: three other bounty hunters who, like you, want to become the second person ever to complete the Blacksea Odyssey. The group share some banter, mainly in the form of boasting about their previous kills or talking about their glorious hair. There’s also a shop here, allowing you to buy upgrades and consumables, but this can be pretty expensive. From here, you have to select the next bounty you want to take on; harder bosses give more points afterwards, and each area has four small modifiers affecting anything from enemy size to number of chests spawning.
Once in the arena, a radar shows where to find the first enemies, and the outline of the internal walls and chests. Once close enough, the enemies also show up on the radar as red shadows of themselves, though I struggled to tell them apart at a glance. The walls can be shot and boosted through, and are covered in decoration. Some of those decorations have psychedelic effects, which can be very distracting and disorienting if you bounce against them during a fight.
The combat consists of filling the unprotected parts of enemies with spears, and then shooting a harpoon into them and pulling their limbs off when they glow red. The protected parts of the monsters are usually crystalline or bone spikes, and your arrows just bounce right off of them. This makes aiming very important, particularly against the ranged opponents.
Here is my bug-bear with the game, my lone complaint: the controls suck. I chose to play using the keyboard, and the controls felt very floaty and in no way tight enough for my liking. The ship you control doesn’t stop when you lift off the buttons, but rather just carries on for a little way. The boost function is also very soft, with three stages that are all done by different length presses of one button. I often found myself boosting too much, and then still have the ability recharging when I needed it again.
That all makes defeating some of the bosses nigh-on impossible; one, a kraken-style space beast with a gaping maw and tentacles, sucks me towards inevitable doom and the only way out was to fully boost and get out of its range. That is, unless its tentacles get in the way and push you straight back in again, with no boost and no way out. Another has only a small weak spot and is otherwise covered in armour. It is also very fast and can turn much better than I can, which makes for an almost impossible kill unless you get lucky with upgrade drops.
Speaking of which: the upgrades are darling. Every so often, from enemy drops and chests, you get runes; you can equip eight at any time, four for your harpoon and four that upgrade your ship. Most of the weapon ones have some chance-based magic, giving you a spread of harpoons or critical damage, though others give you range or elemental effects while the ship runes give you speed or damaging satellites. All the runes have different levels, with level one runes being pretty terrible and level four runes give you god-like powers to smite the monsters.
Also extremely useful are the short-term power ups, which range from health regen to increased attack speed. These are extremely useful when it comes to defeating the boss, especially the bombs which do a ridiculous amount of damage and make me very happy. The only downside to these temporary power ups are how you use them: you can collect a lot, but only two are available to use at any time, and you can’t switch between them without entering an equipment menu.
Blacksea Odyssey (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
I really like Blacksea Odyssey, and I’m gonna keep it on my PC to play occasionally when I have a few minutes. Yes the controls are annoying, but I had a lot of fun and got really into progressing through the odyssey. I never got close to the end, but one day I hope that I’ll get there and see what end-game content looks like when a mid-game boss basically oneshots you.