"The only good bug is a dead bug."

If you’re like me (and let’s hope you’re not), your first question when checking out this game was, “And just where does one expect to end up after he’s escaped from the universe?” We don’t really get an answer here, but we do get a game that manages to change up what you expect to get out of a shoot-em-up…at least for a little while.

Escape From the Universe tells the story of a pilot searching the galaxies for answers after the Earth has been destroyed. This journey brings him into contact with other refugees from Earth, but mostly it just tosses up a large number of 2D aliens for him to kill.

The manner in which you kill them, however, differs a bit from the norm. Yes, there are plenty of levels that have you flying a spaceship from left to right, dodging bullets and obstacles while taking out enemies and attempting to collect power-ups, but escaping from the universe also requires some foot action and a surprising collection of objectives.

You’re not just repeating the same system of eliminating enemies on your way to a boss. Instead, you actually have quests you can accept to determine your next course of action.

Plot quests drive the story along, while side quests simply give you a little more to do and, more importantly, help you rack up credits that can be used to upgrade your ship (better weapons, stronger shields, etc.), so there’s quite a bit of grinding required to get all the credits you’ll need.

The game’s mission structure can put you on foot with the task of, for example, taking out an enemy generator. There are also some in which you have to kill a specific number of enemies and some that have no enemies at all. There’s a lot to do here, in other words, and Escape from the Universe does a good job of changing things up.

Unfortunately, the levels largely feel and look the same throughout. The vivid colors and 2D vector-style design are pretty cool at the start of it all, but they’re not enough to carry the player through the entire game. Plus, the spaceship levels and the foot levels really don’t play that differently from one another. You move the same way, and gameplay is mostly still about acquiring power-ups and destroying enemies while avoiding fire.

And there are the bosses. They’ve got very cool designs, but destroying them is just a matter of outlasting them. Most look like they could have strategic areas to hit for higher damage, but that didn’t seem to be the case; you just drop as many bullets into them as you can with the hope that you can finish them off before they get you.

If you die, you can use your credits to return to the beginning of the boss battle. If you’re out of credits, however, you have to begin the entire mission from the start.

This, then, is where the game’s flow is troublesome. Presented with using up credits, starting from the beginning of the level, or just shutting the game off, it wasn’t long before I went with the latter. Thankfully, CAT-astrophe Games has just released an update that eliminates the bizarre need to spend credits in order to play the next level, freeing up those credits for boss battle rebirth and power-ups.