By Antony Lavelle
Playable for free in your browser
Achievements, IAPs, Unlocks, DLC, Upgrades. They are a built-in part of casual gaming now, and they don’t look to be going away for a long time. After all, being constantly rewarded in-game releases dopamine and makes us want to keep playing. But recognizing the limits of these trends is also “so yesterday.” Parodies, commentaries and meta-games can be found in abundance now… but if you want to see one of the first (and best) examples, check out Upgrade Complete.
The tone of this hilarious shooter will become obvious from the second you boot up the game. Everything you need to play Upgrade Complete has to be purchased and upgraded. You’ll even have to suffer through old-school, pixelly, Space Invaders flavoured graphics, complete with bright contrasting colours that are hard to look at, before you earn enough in-game currency to purchase a better aesthetic.
The gameplay itself is boiled down to absolute basics, but still a lot of fun. If you’ve ever played a shmup (shoot-’em-up) before, you know what to expect. What keeps the game unique is the ability to purchase, customize and (of course) upgrade your own ship. You can choose which weapons to put where, lending the game a bit of strategy and keeping each new wave of enemies fresh.
Having recently played a similarly themed game which proved rather disappointing, I can confirm that Upgrade Complete is still fun, witty, relevant, and worth playing. Not only is it free and easy to play, but it knows not to wear out its welcome; the game can easily be completed in a half-hour. There isn’t much to the ending, but that’s not why you’re playing–is it? It’s the journey that matters, mates… not the destination!
If you can’t get enough, also try Achievement Unlocked, another classic with a similar twist.