Space Marshals 3: Chapter One – Needs More Cow Bell

In 2020, players with an Apple TV HD and an Apple Arcade subscription have been spoiled with quality releases. Games such as Warp Drive, The Pathless, South of the Circle, Samurai Jack and Little Orpheus are just a very small sample of titles that have justified the Apple TV as a gaming console.

Outside of Apple Arcade however, quality Apple TV game releases have been few and far between this year. The occasional titles that trickle onto the platform such as Interloper, The Curse of Issyos, Hyper Light Drifter and Oddmar, are exceptions that highlight the rule.

Thankfully, as Apple TV continues to elude mainstream recognition as a gaming platform outside of Apple Arcade, studio Pixelbite continues to back the little black box with its Space Marshals series.

Releasing only a few short weeks ago, it turns out I actually got a few things wrong in my initial excitement after viewing the trailer for the first time.

Having managed to complete my initial run through of Chapter One’s 10 levels, it’s time to right those wrongs, and pose the question – does Pixelbite’s third Space Marshals entry deserve a number three in the title?

In my eagerness to post impressions following the trailer’s release, I mentioned the change of main character Burton’s look from classic gun-toting western cowboy to futuristic super soldier. Turns out Burton is as reliable and consistent as a pair of well-worn old slippers. He is still depicted as a classic gun-toting western cowboy, complete with beer belly and laziness intact.

Collectible hats and outfits are still available to play dress-ups with, but Burton is still very much Burton.

I noted also the trailer’s use of sci fi energy weaponry. On my initial play through, these were sadly only in the hands of the bad guys. Burton was armed with traditional bullets shot out of traditional guns – revolvers, shotguns, rifles and machine guns. This however, might be remedied in my second play through. Why? Allow me to explain.

On completion of a mission, the Space Marshals series rewards players based on how well they played. Damage taken, secrets found, amount of deaths and so on. Do poorly and you may not be offered any rewards at all. A successful run on the other hand will see a choice of much more interesting guns and armour.

My initial play through was really an effort to get to the end so I could report back here on ATVG, but I’ve often found that the real enjoyment of this series comes from repeat attempts. Perfecting your stealth-’em-up gameplay style, or becoming the ultimate gung-ho shoot-’em-up warrior is where the fun is to be found. The desire to try again and again speaks to the quality of the gunplay in Pixelbite’s top down, twin stick shooter.

The couple of things I got wrong in my early impressions are a good indication of Space Marshals 3’s strengths and weaknesses.

It could be argued that there isn’t a whole lot here that fans of the series haven’t seen before. I didn’t see any noticeable changes to the overall mechanics, new features or even unseen aesthetics. It looks and plays like the Space Marshals you know and love. Is that a bad thing? So many studios seem to feel the need to mess with a successful formula that it’s often disappointing when you don’t get what you loved about the earlier titles in a series. This is not an issue you need fear with Space Marshals 3. If you loved the first and second, you’ll love the third.

Another argument that could be made is that this entry is too short, and may not be deserving of the number 3 in the title. It could be argued that these 10 missions feel like a DLC pack for Space Marshals 2. The fact that Space Marshals 3 has Chapter One in the title rescues the game from this argument on a technicality. Pixelbite has stated on its blog that this Chapter One release will serve to fund the following chapters, with Chapters 2 and 3 already being worked on. The 10 missions here are a lot of fun, but are all reasonably short, and so it will be interesting to see how long fans will need to wait before subsequent chapters are rolled out. Hopefully not too long.

Burton, Ava and the crew of the Artemis are at it again with their swashbuckling adventures in space. There are communication devices that need fixing, bounties to hunt down, and a villain worthy of a Bond film.

Pixelbite’s Space Marshals series is an enduring success on Apple TV, and as I like to say here on ATVG, more of a good thing is a good thing. It’s a series that really should be played on a big flatscreen with a controller, although being a universal purchase your progress will follow you on all your various sized Apple screens.

Now that I’ve finished my initial play through, the real fun begins – getting into those scrappy stand-offs, the satisfaction of a ninja-like run through of a level, and going back and finding hidden secrets. And hopefully I’ll be rewarded with some big, bad, sci fi laser-blasting weaponry. If I am, you’ll be the first to know.

If you’re new to The Apple TV Gaming Blog (ATVG), or just new to Apple TV gaming in general, or both, then the best place to get acquainted is our Best Apple TV Games of 2020 article. You’ll find a great collection of games to play, and a bunch of useful links to our previous site content. Welcome aboard. Enjoy the ride.