The more I delve into gaming history, the more it's becoming apparent to me just how influential a game Star Force was. I just thought it was a polished arcade shoot 'em up, and originally I thought I was the only one that gave a toss about it. Over time, I've found others who revere it as I do, which is great, but there are more clones of this great game than I'd realised, too.
Plutos is one such clone. Not a game I'd heard of until recently, but I was recommended it as a good game for the blog. The name was all I had to go on... I didn't even know what kind of game it was. So it was a very pleasant surprise to start the game and find a variant on Star Force... I just felt like a bit of a blast, as it happened.
Not a clone, but a "Space War Arcade Simulation", says the back of the box. OhhhhKaaaaay...
There's no doubting that source of inspiration. Right from the off, you've got a Star Force-shaped ship, Star Force-like enemy attack patterns, and Star Force-like ground bases and installations. As you progress, you've even got the question marks that you shoot to try and reveal extra lives. It's all very, very familiar.
Still, if you're going to steal, steal from the best. Plutos does add a hint of originality by giving you limited fuel, meaning that you have to keep your eyes peeled for fuel dumps on the ground, and naturally, in one of gaming's great anomalies, blasting these tops up your supply.
The message is clear. You know what you have to do.
It's standard fare, but it is very playable and, crucially, you make a little more progress with every game... an essential ingredient for any quality shooter. I would have loved to have owned this when it was released (and if I'd had one of the computers it was released on)... it would have made the long wait between trips to the arcade all the more bearable. And while it's not as good as the game that inspired it, Plutos is most definitely one of the better home blasters I've played from its time.