SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance is a twin stick shooter from indie developer Brain Shape Games. It takes place in the future; a future where humanity is under attack from a new and deadly alien race. You are leading the assault to defend mankind and banish this new threat forever. If you’re thinking that sounds like one big cliché then you’d be right. It’s forgivable though, because let’s be honest, the story is merely in place to give some reason as to why you’ll be flying around murdering thousands upon thousands of aliens. What you’re really here for is some good old fashioned, Xbox Live approved, twin stick shooting fun.
The game controls as any twin stick shooter should. You use the left and right analog sticks to manoeuvre your ship and fire your weapons. Special weapons are assigned to the B and Y buttons and you can manage your cargo, shields and radar by using the triggers and bumpers. In all honesty it would be hard to create broken controls for a game such as SCHAR, but the fact is that they work, and that’s what matters.
Before you embark upon a mission you will be allowed to choose one of four ships. Each ship has different special weapons and attributes, and depending on which ship you choose your play style will vary. Unfortunately, there isn’t much incentive to change your ship for different missions. Once you start upgrading your ship using the salvage you find during levels you should be able to complete the story mode using that one vessel. Unless you deliberately change ship, you won’t find the game forcing you to rethink your strategy.
You won’t need much strategy for the story mode either. Missions will generally involve you collecting salvage, repairing and defending shield generators with said salvage, and wiping out any enemies you see. There is the odd escort mission thrown in there for good measure but these don’t really mix things up enough. The levels do get progressively more difficult, and some do provide a decent challenge. Yet I was never tested as much as I had anticipated, and that’s a shame because the game is at its best when it’s testing your skills. The story mode should only take you a few hours to complete, with most levels only taking around 5 minutes. SCHAR also gives you survival challenges to attempt. In these challenges you must survive against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. It's a fun addition to the game, albeit one that you would expect from any twin stick shooter
From a technical standpoint SCHAR is good, but not great. During my playthrough the game inexplicably crashed twice, giving me an error number as the reason for the crash and then taking me back to the Xbox dashboard. I also experienced slowdown during missions when I deployed my first mine. The game would freeze for a second after I had deployed my mine, before then resuming at normal speed. These aren’t game breaking issues at all, but they are issues that shouldn’t be there. On the aesthetic front things are fine; the sound and visuals are serviceable, but can become repetitive after a while – try fighting the same 4 ships over and over again and you’ll see what I mean.
All in all SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance is a solid, if unspectacular game. It knows what it wants to do, and it does a decent job of doing it. If you’re a diehard fan of the genre you’ll likely enjoy your time with SCHAR, and at only 240 Microsoft Points it could be worth picking up. If you’re not, then my advice would be to sit this one out and save those delicious points for another day.