Lifeless Vanguard is a Commendable First Title, Priced Poorly

There’s nothing like a bit of bullet hell.

In theory, completing Lifeless Vanguard could take around 30 minutes to go through all nine of its levels. In practice, however, I’ve only just managed to scrape past the first boss. That’s where the longevity of Lifeless Vanguard is: its difficulty level. Despite how polished this shmup is, it’s hard to justify its £11.39/$14.99 price point.

It seems other people haven’t been able to justify it either; looking at the leaderboards reveals a global player base of just ten people – myself included. Of course, it’s also very possible that developer Vibrant Allegory’s first title has simply got lost in the deluge of titles that release on Steam on a daily basis. But this shouldn’t be the case. Lifeless Vanguard plays wonderfully, and deserves more players. But to get them, it’s going to need a lower pricetag.

Lifeless Vanguard‘s premise is summed up succinctly and in no way subtly in its Steam description: “shooting spaceships to make them go BOOM… without going BOOM yourself!” Couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s a twin-stick arcade shooter that often strays into bullet hell territory. You are in control of a small spaceship, battling hundreds of hostile ships out in space. And the odds are rarely in your favour – until you’ve practiced a lot.

There’s no easing you in: from its first level, Lifeless Vanguard consistently launches enemies at you. But to give you a helping hand along the way, downed enemies can drop power-ups, experience, score, and multiplier bonuses. Gaining experience will improve your ship, granting your main weapon more projectiles. Couple this with a dash and bomb on your spaceship, and you have enough of an arsenal to take out waves of enemies.

In theory, anyway; dodging everything with only five hit points to last you all nine yards levels is a feat I’m not sure I’ll ever accomplish. Once you’re hit five times and run out of health, it’s game over and back to the start of the game with you. Well, if you care about getting your score on the leaderboard – there is a continue button if you want to start at the level you died at, but doing so will disable the leaderboard and achievements. And to add insult to injury, you’ll be presented with an image of a baby for pressing continue. Wah, wah.

It lacks the depth that other twin-stick shooters carry, but if you enjoy an unforgiving difficulty, you’ll no doubt get a kick out of Lifeless Vanguard. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably play it for about an hour before realising you’ll never finish it without using those damn continues. I don’t begrudge a challenge, but I’d like to get a little more out of a game at this price.