Sector six would be easy to dismiss as a run of the mill side scrolling shooter by looking at a few screenshots. But let me assure you, that would be a big mistake. Sector Six surprised me, Yes it’s a scrolling shoot ’em up and yes it was made by one person. But beneath the surface is a detailed game with a whole lot of unexpected depth.
Visually it has a retro minimalistic design in both its interface and graphical fidelity. This works great for the game itself, the ships seem to be cast in shadow and it looks super slick.
The interface between missions could have used a more modernized style. It took me a little while to get used to it and figure out what I was looking at in each menu. But it’s functional and serves its purpose after applying a little bit of effort to learn it all.
The game has a ton of particle effects for the various types of attacks and explosions. A still image doesn’t really do it justice. The bright lasers, fiery explosions and chunks of ships that go flying provide really good visual effects and feedback to the player. The ships look nicely detailed despite its shadowed style and the level backgrounds are simple but nice.
You control a ship from a side scrolling perspective and can move it around in 2D space. You can move forward and back but you can’t fly past enemy ships before you kill them. I did initially have trouble with the keyboard controls. The game has you controlling the ship with the arrow keys and controlling the weapons and other functions with the number keys. Maneuvering the ship in that manner was awkward and I felt clumsy. So I hooked up an Xbox One gamepad and the controls instantly felt more responsive. The game automatically assigned the keys to the buttons with no effort required on my own behalf.
You can switch seamlessly between mouse, keyboard and controller with a left click or a button push on the controller. This meant I could easily use a gamepad during the missions and mouse when navigating menus or building my ship.
Anyway, you fly around the levels killing enemies ships and completing objectives. The game has a decent variety of mission types. It could be destroying a certain number of ships, activating an artifact and protecting it or collecting ammo for a siege weapon which you use in a small minigame to complete the objective.
The enemies are varied and each one has their own types of attacks and patterns for you to learn and adapt to. You will need to figure out how to dodge and counter a variety of projectiles and abilities.
There are enemies that shield themselves or reflect your own shots back at you, ones that disappear and attack you in a wave of missiles and others that heal their allies or block off parts of your screen with missiles. Modified enemies can also appear, which give them other special qualities. For example, you might have one that drains your ether or has extra health bars.
You unlock a wide variety of abilities to use, such as shielding yourself or firing a huge laser. The design of your own ship also influences your weapons, armor and many other factors of the gameplay. Your health, known as armor in the game, does not refill mid-mission on its own. But you do have some options, such as using alloy to top it off.
You have an almost sandbox approach in what missions you want to do. There is the main story you can follow, but each sector is split up into a variety of zones. You can pick and choose what ones you take on. Zones that are freed from the machine’s hold, can contribute certain bonuses to you, such as granting a ship part whenever you complete a mission in that sector, or opening up a shop or arena you can visit. If you fail a mission, the grip of the enemy tightens on that zone and it will be more difficult to liberate it.
This kind of set up grants you a lot of freedom in what you want to do and how to approach the game. You can gain experience and level up, but each sector stops giving you XP after you hit a cap for it. Forcing you to move on if you want to level further. You are still free to take on other missions in the same sector to earn more ship parts, units to spend and earn other bonuses in the sector.
As you play and level up, you unlock ability points that you can use to upgrade different skills. These can be passive effects such as raising your armor and weapon damage. Or active ones you use in combat such as shielding yourself, firing big missiles or a laser beam of death.
It’s entirely freeform, you can downgrade each skill at any time, allowing you to redistribute the points into something else. So you never get stuck with an ability you tried out and disliked. Each level up also lets you increase the number of parts your ship can have by one. Every part added makes your ship more powerful, but also makes it physically bigger, a larger target for projectiles to hit
The amount of abilities you are able to unlock is seriously impressive, and they all do different things. In practice, each ability is governed by a cooldown and has an ether cost to use. You gain ether by killing enemies and it’s a bit of resource management that keeps you from constantly spamming your strongest skills. Each one can also be upgraded with points if you want to specialize. They are fun to use and unlocking new ones is always exciting.
One of the biggest aspects of the game is the fact that you build and customize your own ship. You can find a very large variety of ship parts in the game, or buy them from shops. These parts can influence different stats of your ship, such as armor or weapon damage. Some also have more unique qualities such as generating armor or ether from kills or deflecting projectiles. The weapons you install not only affect statistics but change the very nature of your standard projectiles. You can shoot straight missiles, a blast of shards, pulsating waves and more.
Ship parts have different rarities that dictate how strong they are and you can sell off ones you don’t need, or break them down into alloy for you to refill your armor mid-mission. Alongside parts are amplifiers, each part has a number of slots and you can drag and drop these inside them to increase their effectiveness further.
Different ship modules also look different cosmetically and you can drag and drop them in a very intuitive grid system to build the look of your ship. You can make your ship look like pretty much anything you can imagine. You’re limited only by the number of parts it can have, which is based on your current level. The game provides a detailed analysis of your built ships statistics as well. You always have a clear picture of what kinds of changes your tweaking had on your ship.
With its freeform nature, breadth of abilities and detailed shipbuilding. Sector Six is already highly replayable. But once you reach level five you unlock a modular difficulty system. This allows you to turn on and off challenge modifiers on missions. Such as making enemies hit harder, swarm you or have modified foes appear more often. Each one makes a mission more challenging, but increases the rewards you receive for completing it.
Sector Six is a truly impressive game for its size, with a shocking amount of depth and nuance to its systems. It looks good, is fun, and has a bunch of replay value. The amount of customization you have between the shipbuilding and abilities is pretty crazy for a game like this. The interface is initially confusing and the keyboard controls aren’t great. But if you have a controller it’s smooth sailing side scrolling goodness.
The game costs $9.99 on Steam, but at the time this review is published it’s on sale for $2.49. I highly recommend the game even at full price. But if anything at all in this review piqued your interest. You would have to be insane to not pick it up right now on sale. Its’ truly a great side scrolling shooter.
A key for Sector Six was provided to Gideon’s Gaming by Aivaras Klimas. You can read about my review process here.
- Fun side scrolling shoot em up gameplay
- Neat art design
- In-depth shipbuilding
- Lots of abilities
- Freeform mission choices
- Highly replayable
- Seamless controller support
- Clunky keyboard controls
- Confusing interface