A twin stick shooter, designed to look and feel like a blast from the past but in a time where realistic graphics and deep, meaningful stories are demanded, is there a place for an old school game like this?
An indie game developed by Happion Laboratories and sold for a very reasonable £3.99 in the UK is not meant to, and isn’t going to, provide a gamer with in depth story and awesome visuals. What you get instead is a challenging and frenetic game that is easy to get into and difficult to master. The game is chaotic, sometimes frustrating and very addictive. The amount of times I just have “one more go” is ridiculous.
It is based on a very simple concept, very similar to games like Geometry Wars, and has you controlling a space ship (a triangle) within a rectangular walled off zone. Using the left stick to fly around and the right stick to fire you aim to survive as long as possible and destroy as many of the enemies also appearing in the playing field as you possibly can. To help you there are random pickups that appear such as missiles, temporary invincibility, score multipliers, double fire weapons and bombs but the real key is the decision on when to use a levels exit. Using the exit instantly drops you down to the next level which increases the score available for the destruction you are causing but is balanced by a hefty jump in difficulty. Difficulty in this game is simply defined by more and faster enemies. You can keep jumping down levels to try to gain the best possible score but you will probably die. You get one life and you get 60 seconds to try to top those leader boards. You can also cause chain reactions by taking out a certain amount of enemies in quick succession of each other. This is the easiest survival method as once it is active time slows down and it keeps going as long as you take out another enemy every second or so but that sounds easier than it is.
The 60 second timer also adds a lot to tension of the game, almost forcing you to jump down a level as you worry about your score being too low with time running out, often pushing you into a zone you can’t quite survive in.
As you would expect from such a basic game, everything included works well. The controls are responsive, the images are clear and the music and effects are fast paced to suit the style of the game. There is no multiplayer here. Competing against your friends is done in the old school leader board fashion. There are two modes, 60 second and infinity, which are almost identical other than infinity mode has pickups available that can extend your sixty seconds as long as you can survive for. For me, sixty seconds was more than enough. I would have been better suited to 15 Second Shooter Prime perhaps? There are 5 or 6 different skins to choose from but a couple of these really ruin the game so are best avoided as, stupidly, a few skins are designed in the same colours as some of the tougher enemies making them invisible to you. The game is tough enough already that I believe this to be an error, not a planned challenge.
If you are into achievements, you will mop up most in the first 30 mins of gameplay but there are three or four that will really push you. One which has you needing to make it to Level 20 is particularly difficult.
There are a couple other issues that I think makes the game overly difficult and pushes it from challenging into frustrating with the main one of these being the closeness of the camera to the playing field. It basically means you can only ever see around 20 to 25% of the playing field and fly into other areas, full of enemies completely blind. Also enemies and bullets come out of these blind spots constantly and an awful lot of my deaths are coming from enemies not even visible on the field of play. I also feel that sometimes the fireworks and explosions can be a little over the top, which was probably the aim, but to the point where, if you do well and destroy a lot the screen becomes a mash up of lights and colours, you can no longer see your ship but also can no longer see the bullet heading straight for you that you otherwise would have moved away from.
Despite these few irritating visual flaws, the simple mechanics and difficulty makes for a really fun 20 or 30 minute blast on a game. It is great filler when you don’t have much time or just want to play something a little different but is unlikely to keep your attention for long periods in a session or for long in overall terms as there is no real challenge aside from high scores. There is a pointless levelling system of sorts where you start the game without extra skins, infinity mode or any available power ups. These are unlocked as you level up to a maximum level of 115. Problem is I unlocked everything and reached level 115 within 30 mins to an hour making the whole thing a little silly. May as well have just let me start with everything I guess.
A few flaws and a pointless levelling system aside, this is great fun and at just £3.99 it is real value for money. The game has no real depth to it but it looks fine, plays well and is just fun. While that may be not enough for a lot of modern gamers, for anyone looking for a cheap bit of retro arcade, this game covers all those bases. What it aims to do, it does well.
Sixty Second Shooter Prime