Is Erny-body out there?
The theory of ErnCon goes like this: Space = Fun. Shooting things + Space = More Fun. Shooting things + Space + Other people shooting things + Space = Immense Fun. Did you get all that? Good. You see, videogame design isn’t all that hard.
ErnCon is a top-down multiplayer space shooter where you must prove you’re the best pilot for the job of retaking the galaxy. I don’t know who took it in the first place, just in case you’re wondering.
You take control of a spacecraft and head out somewhere in the galaxy to do battle with an assortment of CPU and human space robots and flying machines. Human space robots? That’s a bit of an oxymoron isn’t it?
A virtual thumbstick and buttons control your movement as various alien craft fly at you from all directions. Movement is quick and twitchy; your ship will be darting round in tight circles most of the time. Getting shots on target can be difficult. You know, a bit like a pub football team. The whole thing is highly reminiscent of the classic shooter, Asteroids.
Your job is to blast these pesky ships out of the atmosphere, collect gems as currency, and complete missions such as preventing enemy ships escaping the asteroid field. That’s not the same as a football field by the way.
The hook here is that ErnCon (I’m still not 100% sure what that means) is ‘Always Online’ meaning that up to eight strange people from around the world can drop in and out of your single player mission at any point, instantly making it a multiplayer affair. It even has cross-network play, so you can do battle with your Samsung owning friends andblast away at those pesky Androids (see what I did there?)
Unfortunately, over the course of 500 games (slight exaggeration), I only had a handful of players come by to see me, and those that did seemed to jump back out moments later. I don’t think this is a problem with the game (although frequent connection error messages which leave you with little choice but to quit the app certainly don’t help). Perhaps it’s just the terribly short attention span of the modern gamer. Perhaps just as they join my game, someone coincidentally invites them to another. Perhaps it was my breath.
Multiplayer issues aside, ErnCon is actually quite an enjoyable old-skool shmup. Gameplay is solid with or without the random faceless; it’s a quick trigger finger blast-fest full of madly kinetic explosions, and things occupying every inch of the screen. There’s also a nice assortment of weapons with Homing Missiles, Seeking Mines, Rail Guns and Attack Drones to choose from. And as well as the standard mission-based levels, there’s also a survival mode which throws every shooting thing in space at you until you die. Why wouldn’t there be?
The addition of more players just adds to the crazy chaos of it all. You may not even realise you’re playing with another human as the frenetic pace heats up even more with eight bods on-screen as well as the CPU enemies (yes, I did manage to find eight folks willing to play with me…for a while at least). Make enough friends from these inter-stellar battle royals, and you can even send them boosts such as extra speed, weapons and armour to help them in gameplay. Share the love and all that.
So regardless of whether or not you find eight space cowboys out there in the outer reaches of the universe, ErnCon manages to provide enough enjoyable arcade shooter gameplay to stand on it’s own. If you do manage to forge some friendships amongst the stars, even better. Let’s go through our sums again shall we? Colourful 8-bit graphics + lazers and smart bombs surely = some kind of fun.
Connect with Kevin on Twitter @KevThePen. Play with him on ErnCon too. He’s lonely.