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  opened by paleface at 03:49:41 03/29/10  
  paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Shooter_4way; loc=NA]
A stylish downloadable shooter where you bat your regular bullet back and forth like a Pong ball, using it break blocks ricocheting toward you. You can guide the in-flight bullet somewhat by using the "suck" and "blow" functions, which either pull everything toward you, or push it away. Block you break release energy pellets which you want to suck in; the energy you get from them powers a shield you can toggle around your ship to protect it from blocks, and, once your power meter fills up, a devastating slow-motion cannon barrage.
The main game consists of block-breaking stages; break all the blocks and continue to the next stage, and then eventually there's a boss stage, then a new "world" of more block breaking stages, another boss, etc.
Stages can either be horizontal--you move your ship up and down along the left side--vertical--you move your ship left and right at the bottom--or circular--you move your ship in a semi-circle along the bottom of a circular path containing the blocks. Vertical feels like the most natural and intuitive orientation here, and I wish all the levels were arranged that way; horizontal tends be harder for me to line up shots, for some reason, and circular is just kind of a pain, because when you deflect a shot off the side of your ship to angle it, if you miss, it will hit the curved wall on the other side of the circle and angle right back, pretty much neutralizing the "English" you'd put on it.
Still, for a block-breaking game, the shooter gameplay is pretty rad, and the visuals--though only 720p--and sound have a lovely and hypnotic crystalline, abstract, techno style. The music in particular is quite good.
The difficulty ramps up very slowly, however, and even later worlds aren't all that hard once you grasp each level's particular quirk: block and bosses can come in all kinds of clever arrangements that one way or another bombard your ship with blocks when you least expect it. Getting hit by a block doesn't kill you, but it knocks you out of the level for a few seconds, during which time you can't catch your rebounding bullet, and if it gets past you, as in Pong, you lose a life. Anyway once you learn each level, it's more a matter of tedium than anything to clear them. A few of the bosses can be somewhat tricky, but the game is very generous with rewarding extra lives, and in fact you can milk most of the bosses for lots of powerups; in some cases you have to, because the boss can't really be hurt except by your full power barrage, and powering that up may require repeatedly breaking certain blocks/bullets the boss throws at you--this kind of challenge happens a lot and is rather tedious.
So the game itself takes a good long while to clear for a block breaker/shooter, but isn't really that hard. You can go back to any world later, so it isn't as though you have to play through the whole thing in one go, which is a relief, although you kind of do if you want a high score.
Once you--probably with a certain amount of relief--clear the main mode, you unlock boss rush mode, where you try to get through all the bosses as quickly as possible. It's a mark of how easy the game is that I cleared boss mode on the first try--oh wait no I used a single continue, because I had trouble getting used to the pattern of one of the middle-world bosses. Still, for a boss rush mode, it's ridiculously easy, although of course you'll be competing for a high score, which is based on the shortest clear time, I think.
There's also a bonus mode, consisting of the same bonus stages that occur between worlds, where you have to keep rebounding a bullet of every increasing speed. These are fairly tedious (jeez this review is getting tedious!).
The sucking/blowing is interesting, but I never really found that I had an intuitive grasp for which shoulder button blew, and which sucked, and which way that would shift my bullet in a given situation; maybe I'm just sort of dumb in this kind of thing, but it's a rather indirect control scheme that left me feeling a bit up in the air. And in between trying to hit blocks, trying to rebound your bullet, trying to suck/blow to guide your bullet, trying to catch powerups, trying to suck to collect energy pellets, using your shield to protect against blocks, and watching your power meter for shield/gun power, not to mention avoiding boss patterns and looking for an eventual opening to their weak spot, there can be a little more going on at once than I would like, particularly given my general suck/blow retardation. For a usually simple genre, or couple of genres, the basics of the controls are unusually complicated, and especially when you're stuck in a horizontal or circular level, it can all get a little irritating; given the otherwise low level of difficulty, most of the time I felt like I was fighting the controls more than anything else.
So there's a lot of neat stuff here, and it's kind of worth checking out, but there is some tedium and irritation involved. It seems like it kind of wants to be one of those trippy "synesthesia" games, with the abstract techno atmosphere, easy difficulty, and sort of basic gameplay, but it's a little too complicated on the control side to be properly immersive/relaxing enough for that. It isn't really that frustrating at any given moment, but it takes so long to play--relative to other shooters or block breakers, I mean--that the small continual frustration builds up to something that kind of kills any urge I might have to try to play through the game again for a higher score.

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