Star Salvager Review – Block Blaster

Star Salvager game screenshot, Combat
Star Salvager Review – Block Blaster

Platforms: Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Star Salvager

Publisher: A-Game Studios

Developer: A-Game Studios

Genre: Action

Release Date: May 9th, 2024

Star Salvager by A-Game Studios

Star Salvager turns the match-three game into a Rogue-like.

The core gameplay involves lining up blocks to create energy for a specific weapon or power-up. Get as far as you can before dying, then start from the beginning.

Star Salvager game screenshot, Big Ship

Let’s Learn Colors and Shapes

For the most part, the mechanics are simple. For example, merging three colored blocks in a straight line gives you energy for the weapon or item associated with that color.

There are a handful of weapons and power-ups to experiment with. Once blocks are merged, they also become solid, allowing you to create more complex shapes, which offer even more energy.

And since the ship carries from one stage to another, it’s important to create more complex shapes for maximum energy. It’s easier said than done; just the act of lining up blocks takes a lot of skill and precision.

Star Salvager lets you rotate your ship to put specific blocks where you feel necessary. You can also use this rotation to destroy close enemies and throw blocks off your ship. I like this mechanic; it offers enough flexibility to make block-matching easier.

To match blocks with their similar color, you have to stay frosty. There is a lot to keep an eye on.

Blocks Busted

Besides shooting enemies, asteroids and turrets become a nuisance. It’s particularly frustrating when enemies and objects knock blocks off and ruin your more complex shapes. Because you’re often bombarded with enemies, success in Star Salvager sometimes feels more reliant on luck than skill.

I’d often be unable to shoot because blocks would fly by or would fall into an incorrect spot, usually because I had to move out of the way of charging enemies or projectiles.

The controls make things even more of a challenge. The ship moves left and right in small increments whether using a controller or the WASD keys. I wish it felt smoother to allow for more precise lining-up of blocks. It’s precise enough to line up blocks competently, but smoother controls would make Star Salvager more enjoyable.

Salvage and Build

After completing a stage, you select an upgrade for the rest of the run. There are a number of stages before each boss, allowing you to choose which defensive or offensive stats to focus on.

But as much as these upgrades help, Star Salvager relies a lot more on moment-to-moment block-merging. Upgrading stats can only go so far if your block-merging skills are lacking, so there definitely is an emphasis on skill.

Star Salvager game screenshot, Block Match Gif

Because it’s a Rogue-like, some upgrades are permanent, ranging from increasing health to more specific power-ups like bonus damage to bosses. This part of the game feels like a grind, as the resources used for upgrades are hard to come by.

Getting permanent upgrades was even more difficult for me because during my first 10 or so runs I died at the first boss. These kinds of balancing issues make Star Salvager feel a little too punishing.

Star Salvager game screenshot, Upgrades

Star Salvager looks and sounds like a nice throwback. Visually, the game looks employs a modern, arcade style. Colors pop, making blocks and objects easily discernible. Enemies are clearly rendered and stand out from the colorful space backdrops.

The score features some nice synth beats to drive home the ’80s throwback vibe; nice sci-fi tracks set the mood. Overall it has a fun, inviting chill aesthetic.

The Verdict

Star Salvager has some solid ideas but feels held back by its balance. Some may find it easier than I did, but I feel like the gameplay loop is not as fun as it could be.

Star Salvager is available via Steam.

Check out the official trailer for Star Salvager below:

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