One of the joys of a PS Plus subscription is downloading a freebie from the selection box of titles, never sure if you’re about to play something special or some utter dross.
Fortunately this is very much the former. An old-school twin stick shooter that liberally steals from Robotron, Smash TV, Asteroids and everything in between, this is screen after screen of complete carnage.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, you move with the left stick and shoot with the right stick, both offering complete 360 degree movement. Chuck in a single screen environment, enemies that spawn like rabbits and laser fire lighting up the screen like an 80’s disco and it’s a recipe for a fast and furious blaster.
There are 40 levels to work through, interspersed every 10 levels with a boss encounter, which also serves as a checkpoint. There is little in the way of sophistication; keep moving, keep firing and pick up the coins that felled enemies leave behind to purchase shields and weapons in the post-level shop. Bigger enemies drop bigger coins and they decrease in value the longer they remain on screen so there is a risk and reward aspect to keeping your distance and storming in all guns blazing to pick up the pieces. Occasionally extra items come floating on to the screen too. Some items need to be avoided otherwise you take a hit to your shields, others include a nod to proper old school gaming as bits of fruit patrol the screen, waiting to be picked.
The potential monotony of all this carnage is somewhat broken up by periodic challenge levels. Some of them task you with destroying anything that moves whilst other times you have to avoid all the enemy, resisting the urge to let your itchy trigger finger loose.
Your default shooter is a straight line blast of death but upgrades and pick ups allow twin and triple shots, smart bombs, little robot pets that follow you around or camp out somewhere on the screen doling out their own brand of death, plus lots more besides.
There isn’t an original idea in the whole thing of course but it looks and sounds great. Techno tunes thump along in the background as the screen explodes around you, punctuated by the occasional delightful cry of ‘Die human scum!’ The neon-lit background, garish colours and funky screen effects make it look and feel like something out of Neuromancer. In the heat of the action the screen can feel a bit cluttered and with the various shades and hues of the same colour, it can sometimes be difficult to pick out the collectable from the destructive. But move, shoot and don’t blink are fairly standard guidelines that will see you through.
And old-school arcade game in the truest sense. You’ll tire of it soon enough and the 40 levels will be swiftly beaten. This is the sort of game that might sit in your collection untouched for six months only to come out for an intense two hour session before being put back on the digital shelf again. But those two hours of adrenaline fuelled excitement more than make up for any shortcomings.