Something I unreservedly admire about contemporary indie games is that 'couch co-op' is getting a lot more love. Even if 'couch' is a misnomer, today we've plenty of choice in local multiplayer games, be they co-operative, competitive or somewhere in between. It is a wonderful time.
To such choices we can add Stardust Vanguards [official site], which launched on Steam and the Humble store yesterday. It's a mecha-inspired arena shooter of sorts, and involves one to four players (the more the merrier) duking it out as giant robots whizzing through space. Your basic loadout consists of a rapid-fire cannon and one of those improbable energy swords - which in this case can deflect bullets. Oh, joyous day!
Being a mecha game, some degree of OTT is almost obligatory. And thus we have hundreds of pirate ships in the intro and vast swarms of player-summoned ships in the gameplay footage.
Adding to the multiplayer carnage are the ability to summon reinforcements and the presence of pirates. Look, it's space, so there are space pirates: this is as inviolable a law of video games as the presence of crates. The pirates show up and attack everyone: we're promised plenty of randomisation in how they go about this from small squadrons to transport convoys to a "full-on blitzkrieg" (a direct quote from one of the game's developers there). I'd hate to see a half-arsed blitzkrieg. That would just be a little sad.
I played a bit of the game solo and... yeah, it doesn't really work so well. You need more people. Sadly I've not been able to scrape together four people just yet. Deadlines, eh! However, I have managed two, with which Stardust Vanguards is a great competitive experience, with sword-and-bullet duels spiced up plenty by the arrival of both player reinforcements and random pirate incursions. A particular favourite was a "rebel VIP" who we were both charged with assassinating... meaning we both vectored straight in on that juicy target and, predictably, were killed by each other as much as its escort. The VIP, of course, escaped.
It's recommended that controllers be used, although die-hard keyboard fans can still make use of one. Stardust Vanguards is priced at £6.99/$9.99/€9.99.