On the one hand, it’s easier than I’d like to come up with a bunch of reasons why this is not the best possible version of this game.
On the other, the version of this game that actually exists is pretty fuckin’ dope and is the most satisfying action shooter I’ve yet encountered in this playthrough.
Page 11, Game 3: Cycle 28 by Pill Bug Interactive
It’s Groundhog Day! But in space, with laser cannons.
Your ship is alone, and facing steadily increasing waves of enemies who would like you to die now, please and thank you. Your in-game character is actually aware of this situation, and would like to figure out WTF is going on so they can escape their explosion-laden time loop.
You have the Asteroids control panel, with your key moves being rotate, thrust, and shoot. The physics are Newtonian, but with a speed limit; you can only get yourself moving so fast. Also, your guns have non-trivial recoil, so you can use them as reverse thrusters. You have a lot of space to work with, more than can fit on one screen, but it’s not infinite.
Enemies start relatively small, but get bigger quickly. Before long, sniping at a couple of corvettes not much larger than you turns into exchanging torrents of gunfire with carriers and battleships and big freakin’ THINGS that are going to try and ram you into oblivion.
Your ship can take a beating, but your hit points are finite. When you notice you’re in trouble, try and get yourself out of the fight; your ship will regenerate as long as you’re not shooting your guns. Then once you’re no longer trailing smoke, get your ass back in there.
What Cycle 28 Gets Wrong:
- The game is remarkably stingy about teaching itself, and you have to rely exclusively on trial and error. That thing about being able to regenerate when you’re not shooting? Had to figure that one out myself. Also, some things you can fly through, others will damage you should you collide. The enemy ships you CAN’T fly through all appear to have bright colors, but you can’t use that as your only visual indicator of danger, because they also leave bright glowy exhaust plumes behind them, and those appear to always be harmless. Honestly, there’s just a lot of visual clutter in general, including some background stars that it took me a hot minute to realize I could simply ignore.
- There’s also a score multiplier that I’m pretty sure increments itself after you kill X number of enemies, but then resets itself back to x1 when you take a hit. In practice, the only real way to move that particular needle is to find a carrier and hose-down the fighters erupting from it. If you’re really keeping an eye on your score, you have to find one of them to fill your murder-tank back up before you go big game hunting, which was weird to me.
- You steadily spawn drones/fighters, which are weirdly inconsequential. Hell, took me a while to figure out that you just automatically pop them out at regular intervals, and that they’re not generated in response to a button press. I liked having the little guys around, I suppose, but there was nothing I could do to control or influence them, so they were more an inconsequential background thing than something I could gear my fighting strategy towards. They seem to die pretty quickly once the fights get REALLY bonkers, and frankly that’s when I’m most in need of the help.
- The viewable window is zoomed in much too tightly, and tends to keep focus BEHIND the direction of travel. When I’m turned around and spraying foes with endless torrents of laser blasts, this works! When I’m zooming along, it means I can’t really see what’s in front of me. That’s not cool. I wanted to see a LOT more of the battlespace than I actually could.
- I honestly have no idea how to advance the story. I found a thing, but my only way of interacting with it — shooting it — seemed to do nothing. There was a “boss monster” that occasionally popped up, but by that point the battleground was such a shitstorm that I couldn’t really deal with it.
What Cycle 28 Gets Right:
- Being FUKKIN AWESOME.
The frustrations I had with this game are real, and will likely keep my from coming back to it. But I played the absolute HELL out of this game, and would probably keep playing it some more if I weren’t so curious to see what else the Justice Bundle has to offer.
Zooming in, blasting away, and trying to evade fighter swarms as my ship repaired itself was just plain FUN. The “Oh shit!” moment of realizing another swarm of enemy ships had cut off my escape route made for some fantastic ducking and weaving as I tried to find a NEW path to safety.
Combat is kinetic and satisfying. I kept feeling like a nimble, deadly bad-ass, right up to the point where I asploded — and I had to force myself to NOT dive back in for Just One More Game when it was time to go to bed or write this review.
That’s how I know a game really has its hooks in me. When I’m talking myself into playing it Just One More Time in lieu of getting some sleep … well, fuck it, being tired sounds like Tomorrow Pete’s problem. LET’S GO WRECK SOME SHIT.
The soundtrack kills it too, a classy synth score that did a great job of steadily escalating the tension until it became appropriate for the spectacular life-or-death hellstorms I kept finding myself in.
I wanted this game to be more than it was; I wanted it to be a little more willing to teach itself to me, I wanted to be able to zoom-out my view of the battlefield particularly once things started getting really bananas, I wanted a better sense of how I could engage with the story it was trying to tell. But even without all that, I still had a blast playing it, and am very glad to have found it.
Okay, what wacky time loop is THIS game going to lock me into?
Page 15, Game 27: black mass by will jobst
“a game about seeking and finding in the woods of Salem”
So, gonna be either worshiping dark powers, or observing the horror of weaponized misogyny. I’m anticipating a “Play with the lights out” kinda experience either way.