Pixolane had a rough time releasing Rust Buccaneers. Development on the sea based arcade shooter began in 2009 and was originally meant to be published by a third party publisher in 2011. That publishing deal was cancelled and at that point Rust Buccaneers might have begun to, well, rust. However the Finnish indie games developer didn’t let that happen.

“The game was more or less on hold for years, but after some really hard work we were able [to] finish the game in a one room office with only two people working on it on our spare time. We never gave up”, said Pixolane co-founder Thomas Wahlberg. With development completed, the team self published on the PlayStation Network in Europe just before Christmas, and we’ve been playing it in the office this week.

Loading up the game and going straight into single player mode you can immediately see the five different game modes available; Deadline, Defence, Raid, Assault and Survival. Only Deadline is unlocked to start, with each further type becoming unlocked when you reach a certain number of stars that are awarded after each play.

Jumping into Deadline you first pick your vessel, although here as well only one boat it available to use with all the rest locked until they are bought using money earned as you play. With Deadline you dive straight into a game mode that reminds me a lot of Geometry Wars, the classic Xbox arcade shooter. The twin stick controls, left for movement and right for aiming, instantly feels familiar, while the other controls are equally straight-forward, the right trigger is attack and the left a special which is unique to each of the game’s 36 ships. There’s also a button for reverse but I rarely found myself using that.

Deadline gives you a three minute countdown and unlimited lives to build up a high score. The small, confined map means that there’s never an enemy ship far away to attack and you’ll want to string kills together to build up the multiplier, quickly increasing your score, that will help you climb the leader board. It’s an easy introduction to the game, controls, and techniques you’ll use through the rest of the game. Completing each mode also awards you with the stars you need to unlock further game modes, the higher your score, the more stars you’ll receive. The money you accumulate also seems to be linked to your total score as well.

The other game modes on offer include Defense which tasks you with defending a harbour for five minutes, Raid gives you three targets to destroy with a bonus score based on the completion time, and Assault which is similar to Raid in that it also gives you targets to take out but without the time bonus. The last mode, Survival, only gives you one life to begin with, but you can build up more, and access to better ships, the higher your score gets.

Pixolane describe Rust Buccaneers as “the most appealing short session game this year”, I’m not going to comment on the hype in that phrase, but I would certainly agree that the game is definitely best played in short sessions. Each game mode only take between three to six minutes to complete on average, and while you do need to play through each game mode a few times to unlock the next, it doesn’t take long to open up all five, and soon after to have bought all available ships in the game as well. So if you’re the type of gamer that likes to sit down with a game for the whole evening you’ll find yourself having uncovered everything this game has to offer very quickly.

The real fun to be found is in playing around with all the different ships in the game, there are thirty six in total and no two are quite alike. While the starting ships for each game mode might be fairly conventional, things quickly become interesting with submarines that can surface and submerge, ships with ice armour or grappling hooks, huge warships, wooden frigates, and commando packed speed boats, before veering into the ridiculous and wonderful with a floating iceberg and tourist boat trailing a lethal banana boat, to highlight two of the wackier vessels.

Finding out the best way to use each ship and its associated special ability is key to building up your high score, and as is typically the case, seeing your position on the on-line leader boards is the best motivation to send you back just one more time to increase your score and raise your position. Now I know the game must still be flying below a lot of people’s radars because I’m currently 25th in Assault mode and 45th in Survival, and I’m rubbish at these types of twitch shooters. So if you want to give your ego a massage, try out the game now before those leader boards become impossible to conquer.

An honourable mention has to go to the water and explosion effects in the game, the game’s graphics as a whole are excellent, but you can tell that the developers have given extra time and attention to making the waves and wakes look extra pretty. As well as the single player covered above I should also mention that the game also offers player versus player, player versus AI and cooperative gaming modes. Each of which should help extend your play time with the game. I’m curious to try out the co-op mode once we find a second controller personally.

If you’re looking for a light, easy to play arcade shooter you can’t go far wrong with Rust Buccaneers. It’s currently out on the PSN Network in Europe and is due to launch shortly in the US. We’ve not heard of many indie Finnish game developers self publishing to the PlayStation Network, and it’s really great to see such a fun game come out at the end of what must have been a very difficult development process for Pixolane. If you know of any other Nordic gaming start-ups we should be checking out, please let us know.