Ballpoint Universe - Infinite is a horizontally scrolling space shooter. However, it's not like most of the classics. While there are plenty of bullets to dodge, pinpoint movements to make, and crazy bosses to beat, this game adds in a few things that make the genre a bit easier to swallow for the less skilled players... like me.
This game helps ease the difficulty of the genre by giving you upgrades rather than powerups. Basically, when you destroy enemies, they drop ink. You collect the ink and use it as currency in the shops between rounds. In these shops, you can buy and equip parts to your ship, with a total of four parts. There are two weapon slots, one for the top and one for the bottom. There's also a wing slot, which is generally a passive ability, and also a nose slot, which is a special weapon that you have to build up power for. You build up that power by killing enemies in a row without getting hit. The weapon slots are interesting because there are three basic weapon types: guns, shields, and melee weapons. Guns are obviously projectiles. These are good for ranged combat but enemies with shields will block bullets. That's where melee weapons come in. Melee weapons break shields and generally do decent damage, but they are rather slow and require you to get close enough to the enemy to use them, which can get you killed on the quicker enemies. Shields are used for blocking and/or deflecting enemy fire. These are especially good in levels with lots of firing foes. Each type has their use and knowing which works best for you and for the situation will help you complete the missions. Also, buying new items and upgrades will grant you aillies. There is a gun ally, nose ally, and wing ally, each with their own passive benefits. Once you get them you keep them for good and can level them up a bit as well. All of this gives you an incentive to keep playing because even if a mission is really hard, you can always get more items and upgrades to help you, as well as customize yourself differently for new strategies.
There are also 2D platforming parts of the game. This is where you will travel the overworld. Basically, at the start of the game you can try out infinite space, an endless mode of fighting enemies until you die. This is a nice way to experiement and extend the gameplay, but you'll want to explore the overworld more for the actual missions. By talking to NPCs scattered throughout the overworld, you can be sent on missions. There's a vague story attached to these missions, but it generally boils down to fighting off swarms of enemies in different locations. Once you complete any mission, it is then selectable from your pause menu, so you don't have to explore the vast overworld every time you want to do them again. Also in this overworld are golden sketches that you can collect. They are often hidden, though sometimes are carried by NPCs. Also, some are unlocked by completing the missions without losing a life. Others... I'm not even sure how to get. Either I missed them or it's not clear what to do to get them so... I don't know what to tell you other than... sorry. However, I DO want to make it clear, this doesn't exactly make this a hybrid game. It's still a space shooter. These overworld segments are just for the purpose of story, finding missions, and collecting sketches. There are some parts where you'll need to talk to people, do some platforming, and can even die... but you respawn at one of the many checkpoints and ultimately there are only so many ways to go. It's fun and interesting, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it part of the gameplay. It's more like a big and stylized interactive menu.
I also want to mention the presentation here. All of the game is gone from drawings from a ballpoint pen... at least from what I've heard and gathered. This is something you can really appreciate if you ever used to doodle at all. It reminds me a lot of some of the stuff I'd draw on the sides of my papers in school when I was younger. This is where the overworld shines, actually. There are a lot of things out there. Different characters, environments, and backgrounds create visuals that are simple yet pleasingly detailed. The music in the game is actually pretty cool, giving a quirky yet energetic vibe. And the character monologues are weird and goofy in a way that doesn't feel like they're trying too hard. It all comes together in an interesting and unique experience. But, as you know, there are always downsides.
This game doesn't have many downsides, but it has a few. Let's start with the minor ones. There IS controller support... but for some reason the game only detects ONE specific slot for it... where my mouse was plugged in. Kind of annoying with the placement, but not a big deal. Also, getting all the gold medals on the missions is mostly doable with certain items and setups and you really feel like you can eventually get there... except for one. On one particular mission, the challenge does NOT come from enemies and your ship loadout. Instead, the challenge comes from dodging parts of the environment that will kill you on contact... and they move. Now, there aren't a lot of parts for that and it's nowhere near impossible, but it just doesn't fit with the rest of the game. It tests your skills in flying, not your planning for combat. One actual downside worth noting is that, while you are encouraged to customize your ship in order to counter specific challenges, you don't HAVE to strategically plan your builds. I got through most of the game using the two weakest guns, and I managed to beat the game with the setup of two gun. It's nice to have the freedom to play how you want, but it also takes away some of the value of having different setups. It's not so much about strategy and planning as it is about finding the setup you like the most. Also, having the missions spread out over the overworld, and the overworld segments in general, were a bit out of place. They felt like annoying padding at times. Not that I didn't enjoy the overworld and characters and exploration. I did. But forcing you to do 2D platforming to unlock horizontal space shooting levels of actual gameplay is not the most convenient choice.
Overall, Ballpoint Universe - Infinite is a lot of fun. It gives a lot of replayability with the different ship builds and upgrades. It has an interesting and appealing style. The real kicker is that it's only four bucks! It's hours of fun for just four bucks and it's worth it. If you like horizontal space shooters with progression and customizaion, check it out. Ballpoint Universe - Infinite gets a 7/10. (And yes, that's good.)