The Elite Institute’s ‘impressions’ series are not full reviews of titles. As we pride ourselves on providing in-depth reviews for games that we have beaten or completed, our ‘impressions’ instead focus on providing you with details on the game along with our general thoughts on the title, to help shape your opinion. This means that there will be no score, but we can hopefully give you an idea of the quality.

The reasons for doing an ‘impressions’ rather than a full review vary: perhaps it’s a genre that we don’t feel comfortable reviewing due to gaming tastes, maybe it’s too hard or too bad that we are unable to make it through, or maybe even it’s a game that just doesn’t really have an end goal.

Many thanks to the publishers for the game code.


Whilst I’m not a huge fan of the genre, recently I have learnt to love (some) shmups – thanks in part to the excellent Cotton Fantasy, along with a handful of other great titles. However, I still find that the vast majority of games end up blending together for me unless there’s some kind of unique hook that pulls me in.

For Remote Life, that hook was the breathtaking art style – but it turns out that the game is far more unique than I had originally expected. For better and for worse. The latter is why this has ended up as an ‘impressions’ rather than a full review: I simply could not beat it. Before I get into why, let’s go over some of the basics:

As a huge alien hive mind approaches the Earth, the planet’s only hope resides in the lone ship sent to the core with instructions to take it out. Unfortunately, the ship is destroyed almost immediately. Damn. As such, you – John Leone – are tasked to succeed where your predecessor failed. This time the ship is sent slightly outside, and you need to penetrate to the centre and clear out the alien threat.

Remote Life has a rather straightforward setup, but the game leans pretty hard into it, with frequent (skippable) cutscenes, and the occasional bit of in-mission dialogue to help advance the story. It never really goes anywhere, and the text-to-speech voices don’t really help to keep you invested, but it’s also appealing in its own bizarre way. Regardless, it rarely gets in the way, and you can easily just skip the cutscenes if you find yourself losing interest in the forgettable narrative. 

Whilst it may seem a shame to skip the stunning biomechanical visuals, the cutscenes are actually where the aesthetics shine the least. They’re pleasant, but once you actually start playing the game everything becomes drop dead gorgeous. As a huge fan of HR Giger’s biomechanical art style, this game really is a treat for the eyes. Pumping machinery, saws, and lots of creeping flesh weaving throughout everything lends the game a nightmarish feel – and the horrific creatures, particularly the bosses and minibosses, are the cherry on top. Everything is weird, metallic, and very, very cool. What’s more, each level seems to have its own distinct flavour, making them all feel pretty unique. All of this is accompanied by a thumping energetic soundtrack that is only slightly marred by a lack of proper looping. The presentation of the game is the real star of the show, and it is almost flawless.


As for how the game plays, the most important thing to note is that even though it is technically a shmup, it’s not quite what you’d expect from the genre. Rather than feeling like a throwback to the arcade era, Remote Life feels very much like a modern take on the genre with its own added complexities. Controlling your ship is pretty much as you’d expect for the most part, albeit feeling a tad slow when using the analogue stick. Using the directional pad will go faster, but at the expense of manoeuvrability. The right stick will aim the turret in front of your ship, which has 360º movement allowing you to take down enemies from all directions. The turret does look and move rather unnaturally if you focus your attention on the erratic little tube, but it is functional and offers a firing system that is both unique and appropriate for the game. Enemies come at you from all directions, and your ship is way too slow to evade most shots, so your gun is vital to staying alive. There are three main modes of fire, with an additional superweapon mapped to its own separate button. Each mode works differently and has a base form with infinite bullets, but you can pick up limited use upgrades for each mode that alter the shot and offer increased firepower. The tertiary mode in particular has some interesting upgrades, as it essentially function as an ‘other’ mode, meaning that the upgrades are far more unique: ranging from dropped mines to what appear to be lethal feathers.

What makes the game play so differently is basically everything else that the game has to offer. Shooting is only one element of the game, with stage hazards being the other part. With turrets, giant saw, and nameless metallic monstrosities all moving about trying to kill you, the environment is just as lethal as the enemies. It makes the game feel completely different to most games in the genre, and is genuinely refreshing – even if the slower pace makes the game less replayable as a result. But the game also is fully aware of that fact. With 17 missions to choose from, each one takes a fair amount of time to beat. I’d sunk in around 7 hours before throwing in the towel, and I still had a handful more levels left to do. You may not feel the desire to replay the stages, but every single one is completely different to the last. There are even huge explorative maps that remove the autoscrolling that are an absolute delight to play and are my personal standout. The only stage in the game I hated was the obligatory dark level, which just made the brutal difficulty feel even more stressful.


Unfortunately that leads us to the game’s biggest downfall: the unfair difficulty. The game wants you to die, and it wants you to die a lot. That in itself isn’t an issue, but the problem lies with how you’ll die. First of all, as nice as the graphics are, sometimes it works to hide projectiles and enemies to such an extent that you seemingly die every now and then with absolutely no clue as to what happened. Usually it will be a small worm, or maybe even a pixel sized projectile hidden amongst all the carnage.  I found this happened so frequently that I had to turn the graphical settings down in order to deactivate a lot of the special effects and see as much as possible. Thankfully, the game still looks great even with everything turned off, but I really shouldn’t have to do so. 

Furthermore, the stage hazards can occasionally be designed in a pretty obnoxious way. You’ll find walls closing rapidly in front of you that seal forever, moving obstacles that have a very specific cycle to pass through unscathed, and so on. These don’t necessarily appear all the time, but they do appear enough to prove frustrating – especially when cobbled with the ships ridiculously massive hitbox. Most of your deaths end up feeling like it wasn’t your fault, and that’s really not a good thing for a game to have.

Despite its issues, Remote Life is a very unique and enjoyable shooter with an absolutely gorgeous art style. Even when dying, I felt compelled to come back time after time in order to make it just one stage further… until I couldn’t progress anymore. There are difficulty options, yet even easy is punishingly brutal. Whilst the developer may end up tweaking the game to address these issues down the line, it seems unlikely considering it has been out on Steam for a while. Nevertheless, I’m still happy I played it and I’m very much looking forward to a potential sequel.

Check out my playthrough of the first level to check out the game’s beauty – and difficulty – to see if it’s for you: