I can’t be the only one who feels as if “bright” twin-stick shooters have become the typical killer app for digital distribution when a new console releases. For example, Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD, respectively launching on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, were both highly regarded as leading the digital marketplace on each platform for many years, and were often considered to be far superior games when compared to other downloadable titles during the early days of each console’s lifecycle. Developed by Housemarque, the creative team behind Super Stardust HD, Resogun is a game that has the potential to repeat history, even if it’s slightly less remarkable due to the more robust digital distribution we’ve become accustom to in 2013. So with that being said, is this a true innovation in design, or just a typical arcade shoot ‘em up with a shiny layer of new PS4 paint?
The most pertinent distinction Resogun holds from other games of its genre is the parameters you play in. Rather than doing battle within a two dimensional field, or even a sphere as seen in the Super Stardust series, you instead play around a cylinder. This means nearly the entire battlefield, and all of the enemies within it, will always be in your view, whether they’re approaching you around the curved side, or if they’re directly opposite you on the other side of the cylinder. In another divergence from formula, you’re only capable of shooting left or right, rather than a circular direction as is typical. In turn, this mechanic results in gameplay where positioning is crucial and special abilities are relatively more useful. You can use a boost which will speed up your ship, destroying any enemy you fly through, and then let off an explosive area-of-effect attack upon its conclusion, followed by a clearing bomb attack, or enter overdrive mode; slowing time and shooting a long-range, extremely powerful laser.
Each level of Resogun has one primary goal - destroy enemies while trying to survive until the final phase where you will battle and defeat a boss. Where the game becomes more interesting though is the optional objectives. Upon starting each level, you’re told to “save the last humans”. Saving humans will net you some sweet power-ups, and some all-important points. These points are the second optional objective of each level. Though you can ignore them entirely, you’re scored during each mission. This system and the associated leaderboards provide an incentive to replay missions, perfect your style, and beat your friend’s scores. Playing a mission using fewer bombs or saving more humans can achieve a much higher score, so you always have specific goals to try and fulfil in order to increase your score. This is important, as Resogun is very much an arcade style game in nature.
You’ll play through arcade mode, beating each mission in less than an hour, but you’ll likely want to play more. Fortunately, you can replay the game using a different ship or with various difficulty modes. This doesn’t provide an entirely new experience, but it’s enough to make you feel like you’re doing something differently each time, and a worthy encouragement to keep playing. Additionally, each ship plays differently – Nemesis is fast but weak, Phobos is strong but slow, and Ferox is a rounded middle-ground. Where many games will often make these choices arbitrary and mostly cosmetic, each ship in Resogun does feel unique to play, and each will be suited different styles of play. Four difficulty levels are available with the highest level, “Master”, being locked until Veteran difficulty is beaten. As you might expect, each difficulty is harder than the last, but this choice also affects your in-game multiplier. Defeating enemies increases your multiplier, allowing you to increase your score exponentially, but being destroyed or taking too long between attacking enemies will reset your multiplier. Where you can achieve a multiplier of 5x on Rookie difficulty, each subsequent difficulty allows for an additional 5x.
In Resogun, you’ll also be tasked with saving humans, which provides a greater depth to the gameplay. In part, this is due to the micro-management and multi-tasking required to rescue them, whilst also trying to stay alive and defeat enemies at the same time. Although, it’s mostly because the system is never really fully explained. You are told what to do, but playing the game yourself is the only real way to understand it entirely. For me, this meant that I understood the system slightly more each time I played, so I was constantly changing the way I played and adjusting as I came to understand what to do, and developing strategies on how to do it. Each time I played I felt like I’d improved, and the gameplay felt fresh as a result. Not once did I feel as if I was repeating myself, and as such, I was amazed at how fun the game continued to be, even after multiple playthroughs.
Resogun looks great as well, utilising a rather simplistic art design that is bright and filled with poignant effects. The ships, the enemies, and the stages are all constructed of voxels, which shatter in fantastic explosions, ecstatically shooting pieces all across the screen, or beautifully crumbling into piles, all with immaculate detail. Bombs, boosts and all attacks look excellent, with sparkles, shimmers and stunning explosions constantly covering the screen. The game also features an awesome soundtrack, and as such, it’d be difficult to play through arcade mode without getting one of the songs stuck in your head. The environments, the effects, and the music all reflect the style of the game and suit the gameplay perfectly, creating something that is familiar, yet unique.
Resogun doesn’t stray too far from the typical shoot ‘em up formula, but deviates enough to create an experience that is unique, fun, and potentially complicated. As a game to play through once, Resogun would be a very short experience, albeit a fun one, but with different ships, difficulties, and systems that take time to master, there is an exceptional amount of replayability here. I found this without striving to achieve high-scores, so I imagine players that are competitively inclined could spend hours improving their performance, and the potential for precise, incremental increases in skill is provided in bucket loads. Resogun is simple but deep, regular but beautiful, short but infinitely long, and above all, a lot of fun. In fact, as it stands, Resogun is the definitive title for PS4 right now.