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PowerUp Forever
  opened by paleface at 22:04:28 12/23/08  
  paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Shooter_4way; loc=NA]
This downloadable game from Bandai Namco America, or whatever they're called, has you controlling an abstract ship in what looks like a psychedelic petri dish positively teeming with hostile single or multi-celled life forms, using the typical 2D dual-analog control scheme (left stick moves, right stick shoots) you find in what is almost the majority of downloadable action games these days.
Still, I kind of like this one. Even though it only runs at 720p, the graphics are gorgeous: the backgrounds ooze with liquid depth, and even each individual bullet you fire in your volleys leaves a quivering trail. Enemies look like protoplasms or insects, or abstract glowy things (the bosses), but the pulsing, shifting liquidity keeps them in perfect harmony with their surroundings. Every time you go "up" a level, the color scheme shifts, even sometimes (just once for me, but I've only got to level 11 so far) inverting, which is extremely trippy.
The gameplay is fairly simple: you drift around through the goo or protoplasm or maple syrup or whatever it is, trying to locate and destroy little life forms that run over to feed on larger, inert life forms--solid barriers, as far as you're concerned, only in a very awesome twist, these are actually enemies that will come to life later on, once you've grown large enough to be a threat to them. See, once you kill enough of the little feeders to tick off the boss, and you've beaten the boss, you level--or "power"--up, gaining an increase in literal scale, and usually in some weapon type or other; the level around you shrinks a bit, and you go off once more in search of whatever new scale of feeders you might be facing.
Various organisms, generally worm or jelly-like things, defend the insect-like feeders, either by swimming around you and shooting off bullets of their own, or by flying at you in straight or guided paths. It can get hectic, and to counter it you've got your typical spread shot, rare bombs that destroy everything around you, a shield that can block things coming at you from the front for a short period of time, and two alternate weapons which also suck up the same power reserve: laser-guided projectiles and an explosive wave energy thingy.
I didn't find the alternate weapons, other than the bomb, all that useful. They seem to do more damage, but they're harder to aim than the unlimited spread shot, and run out very quickly. You have to toggle the upper shoulder buttons to switch to them, and it isn't that hard I guess, but it is just a tiny bit of a distraction, and, at my novice level, I found that just trying to think about using and switching to them distracted me much more than their potential power was worth. I'd have preferred having just alternate unlimited shot types, I think; then you wouldn't have to worry about timing the toggling.
The other aspect of the game that isn't the best is the bosses: they all look like little abstract things, sort of like your own ship (which changes to different abstract froms as you power up); in the glowing ooze their small size and speed, and the limited view area given to you, make them somewhat hard to see. They seem to use the same weapons you use, and generally attack in just a few different ways; mostly it comes down to a circle-strafe-off every time. They're challenging, but generic.
You can say that of the entire game, I suppose--you're just going slowly through procedural level after procedural level--but the scaling up schtick is rather fascinating, and the graphics are gorgeous--heck, I even liked the sorta ambient music.
You could also fault the game in the same way that you can fault almost all console shooters these days: they're built more for a long play time than for a quick blast, so they tend to start off very slow, and only build up to a challenging level after a very long time; my second game of PUF, for instance, lasted nearly 20 minutes (the first lasted under a minute ;); in an arcade shooter, that would usually mean you'd gone through 18 minutes of hell, and beaten the final boss, but in PUF and other modern console shooters, it means you went through about 15 minutes of relative boredom, a few minutes of challenge, and haven't really gotten anywhere.
Getting past certain levels in the main "arcade" (alas) mode unlocks five or so other modes. I've only unlocked the first one, where you're challenged to beat ten of the "bosses" in succession in the shortest possible time; they get harder and harder, and even though you heal completely between bosses, as in the "arcade" mode I haven't finished all ten yet (:p), and I haven't unlocked the other modes.
Unusually for downloadable shooters these days, PUF has no Internet score-keeping, or any sort of Internet functionality at all. I'm not good enough at these games to like seeing myself ranked against the legions of the Internet anyway, but others may find it to be a disappointing omission.

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