APERION CYBERSTORM REVIEW Apriori Digital storm out the gate with a beautiful retro shooter with a modern twist.
Apriori Digital storm out the gate with a beautiful retro shooter with a modern twist.
The world of Aperion Cyberstorm, with it’s Tron and Geometry Wars inspired allure, is a dark, brutal and confusing one. Yet the gameplay that underpins it is a wildly satisfying loop of trial and error, balanced with gameplay that rewards time spent learning its intricacies and adjusting to each new challenge thrown at you. Aperion Cyberstorm is a twin stick shooter that manages to strike a deft balance between retro nostalgia for the games that inspired it, with an alarming amount of possible play styles and weapon combinations. It also offers a meaty campaign and raucous versus mode, both of which can be played solo or with up to 5 simultaneous players.
The game offers a visual style akin to Geometry Wars but it certainly isn’t derivative or a half hearted homage. The wire frame art style looks fantastic when all weapons are firing, with the moody yet futuristic level design bringing to mind Metroid & Axiom Verge in the best possible way. The levels are never as full of detail or secrets, but the action on offer in this game suits a brisk and action orientated play style so the world accentuates this. At full steam the game can border on bullet hell, so it’s is certainly best experienced on a large screen. Handheld is perfectly fine, lots of fun can be had with two player local co-op, but visibility becomes a problem with each player added and modes like onslaught can leave players and enemies becoming almost indistinguishable from one another. The excitable electronica music offered throughout is frantic and may be a bit too much for some, but within the context of the game it always feels genuinely thrilling and serves to accentuate the wild and frenetic gameplay. Each different piece sets the tone for some action, and works so in sync with the visual style and gameplay that when it’s all working together the game can deliver an incredible cacophony of audio visual delight.
In single player the game’s campaign is serviceable sci-fi plot about warring factions that is adequate enough to facilitate the mechanics of the game. Your generic space marine character and cohorts are never hugely interesting but this is just window dressing for the bulk of the game and given that it didn’t need to be there, credit is due to the developers for making the effort when similar games often don’t.
Playing the campaign, you’ll be dropped into a series of dark rooms where the mission is mostly to defeat the large swarm of enemies. The game gives a small amount of choices throughout to reward multiple play throughs, and certain room’s hide secrets as well. New ships and abilities are hidden within the walls of certain rooms that are inaccessible through backtracking and so you are encouraged to learn the campaign whilst gaining new weapons and experience, only to play through again later with a greater understanding and arsenal.
The game’s challenge can be dialled down by playing the game on easy mode but the campaign itself isn’t rewarding enough to warrant a guided tour. Playing on medium or higher difficulty is highly recommended as the game feels best when you are learning enemy types, the different abilities you can utilise and facing a room again and again with a little more knowledge than the previous attempt. This feedback loop is the core of the game, and ultimately is what makes it so satisfying. Everything feels and plays as it should, for a small team and their first solo release, attention really should be paid to how fantastic the game feels and controls, with every moment of loss feeling immediately understandable and never cheap. Cyberstorm wants you to fail, it wants you to think about what you did wrong and come back with a deeper understanding so when you achieve victory you have absolutely earned it. Whilst the frenetic and sometimes overwhelming style of this bullet hell shooter doesn’t have the the nuance of bigger games it still has a lot of thought placed into enemy variants, your own abilities and what you can do to improve.
The game designers have stated how much of an influence titles such as Four Swords adventures and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles were and this frantic local multiplayer is by far the best way to play the game. Whilst it’s still thoroughly enjoyable solo, with AI options meaning you can even play the versus mode alone, the experience is so accentuated by having mates to help or hinder you nearby that once experienced, you won’t want to play any other way.
Multiplayer is available not only in campaign co-op, the game also has a hefty versus mode full of different game types, as well as a horde like ‘onslaught mode’ offering waves of enemies to battle until you are eventually overwhelmed. Both these modes are where this game comes into it’s own, the campaign serves as a fairly neat tutorial by slowly introducing ships and abilities so you get the time to try them one by one and learn what works best for you. Whereas in versus or onslaught mode everything is unlocked from the start which can be slightly overwhelming if you haven’t played the campaign without even regarding the games hyper active gameplay and mayhem of onscreen enemies and bullets.
But after a good few hours of sharing this game with people next to me, I got it, everything clicked into place and I felt like I understood the game that the developers were aiming to make. Shouting at friends to help defeat the hordes or cursing them for a victory well earned, the gameplay & visual style serve to deliver such a thrilling experience that I recommend this game to not just fans of the twin stick shooter genre but any gamers looking for a thrilling and rewarding game to play with their friends. I would love to see this game have a demo version because whilst it can be immediately confusing, a few matches is all it takes to understand the addictive and rewarding depth that is ultimately offered.
Aperion Cyberstorm may look simple, but the underlying gameplay feels utterly fantastic and rewards both your victories and your failures. It is a true gem among the Switch’s already outstanding library and stands even higher among the list of local co-op games. The game runs smoothly, the visual style looks fantastic in motion and the music mixes perfectly so that the game oozes a deliriously hyper style. A forgettable campaign holds back the package slightly, but the game is worth the price of admission for it’s wealth of multiplayer options alone.
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