First Impressions – Avatar Star

Avatar Star is a MMO shooter that makes me melt into a puddle of goo squealing “sooooo cuuuuute!”

Avatar Star was playable for the first time ever at the recent Licence2Play gaming expo in Singapore. Published by Shanda Games International, this overwhelmingly-cute shooter’s hands-on demo already has me squirming in my seat for its launch (Ed’s Note: The Closed-Beta Test has been scheduled for next March).

At first touch, Avatar Star is slow and awkward. For fans of typical shooters, this is one shooter that could not be further removed from its roots. The hectic pace and nonchalant violence you see in most FPS titles is replaced with a casual, almost social feel, and adorable, brightly coloured avatars. Avatar Star’s guns, though varied, have as much in-game recoil and response as a water pistol. And at first touch, I hated it.

But playing on let me understand that Avatar Star has more depth than just pointing and shooting. The ‘stars’ of the game are undoubtedly your pudgy little chibi avatars, who wield deceptively cute weapons of mass destruction as they go about maps that would not be out of place on a nursery school’s wall. Though I was unable to experience the game’s customisation options, I’m expecting that you’ll be able to purchase cosmetic items both with Cherry Credits (since it’s a Shanda-published game) as well as in-game currency – as with all freemium MMO games on the market right now. Some of the avatars I saw in the field of battle were generic, while others sported chibi Mickey Mouse and Iron Man costumes.

There seems to be three different classes available, but I was only able to give the sniper class a go. Characters have up to twelve hotkeys bounded to the buttons ‘1 to =’ running across your keyboard – and skills for these hotkeys are set in the lobby before battle. Apart from wielding a sniper rifle, I also had a pistol, a grenade launcher, and a melee chainsaw. Support items included a hitpoint recovery spell and a stealth spell. Windwalk anyone? Each class also had its own unique ability. The heavy gunner class had a sprint button, while the sniper class could drift in the air for seconds at a time.

It’s these options that really add depth to Avatar Star‘s gameplay. Without the extra guns and spells, Avatar Star would predictably fall into being yet another MMO shooter, albeit with a cutesy twist. While the game doesn’t quite look serious enough to cross over into e-Sport territory, it does seem like it’ll make for hours of fun. Girls, we’re especially sure, will love the game’s graphics and customisation options. It’s Gunbound all over again, and I can’t wait to see more of Avatar Star!

Avatar Star is scheduled for release in late 2013.