In 1978 cultural phenomenon Space Invaders unknowingly initiated a number of perpetually recurring themes into videogames, feeding our compulsive need to perfectly clean large swathes of space from marauding extra-terrestrial menace inadvertently welcomed aliens, shooting, cover and the addictive need to “kill all enemies” into gaming. Since then there’s been a myriad of games sharing it’s beloved genealogy, games like the surreal quirky adventure of animals in spacecraft in Nintendo’s Starfox, the arcade favourite Galactica, Xbox360’s indie hit Geometry Wars and so many more. All of them scratch that nostalgic itch in ways that pay homage to the first gaming craze, but also creatively iterate on the tested formula in interesting ways.
Developer Housemarque did a wonderful job of creating a space faring shoot ’em up worthy of the classics with their addictive and challenging Playstation 3 release game Super Stardust HD. The respected franchise later found it’s way onto both Sony handhelds, PSP and Vita, with each version successfully porting across their console brethrens joyous formula – with Playstation 4 however, they’ve taken a new inventive approach to the genre, the result – Resogun. Unlike it’s spiritual predecessors whose twin stick set up allowed players to orbit around planets on a spherical plane however they chose Resogun is more reminiscent of older genre examples confining players to horizontal movement coupled with vertical mobility. Housemarque uses this new franchise to masterfully implement the best bits of Stardust simultaneously inventing new mechanics that do nothing but exponentially improve the already stellar experience, launching it to new heights.
Superficially Resogun fleetingly resembles it’s forebearers, but the majority of the time is happy to pursue it’s own visual individuality. Everything about the experience looks fantastic, it’s remarkable colourful neon palette is fabulous, lasers furiously zip with sparky verdancy, enemy fire balls roar with fierce glow and ships smoothly crumble into their pixelated blocks upon their unfortunate demise. As if that wasn’t vivid enough Resogun has an insatiable penchant for explosions – enemy ships explode like fireworks when their shot or violently torn asunder by a well placed boost attack, bombs explosive waves hungirly ripple around the stage burning up everything in the atmosphere, and as the stages progress their architecture vainly collapses into bright sparkly debris.
All of that culminates in an experience that’s akin to playing a shoot ’em up in the worlds brightest, explosive and colourful combined laser and firework show; to a certain degree it is yet remarkably without any symptom of the potential problems that presents. What’s most impressive though isn’t it’s adrenaline pumping explosive nature, no, it’s how even at it’s most hectic Resogun masterfully makes sure you always know exactly what’s going on; moreover it’s a testament to Housemarques expert design that you never lose yourself amid the chaos presented on screen. Resultedly the game never dispatches the player unfairly, every death is a consequence of your own mistake, it’s euphoric explosive skill based gameplay and visual style delivers an experience that’s obsessively addictive and immensely pretty.
Resogun rarely lets up either in terms of sheer enemy quantity or the inventive variety of foes which it constantly assaults your ship with, every stage welcomes at least one new villainous ship to oppose you. Naturally the players craft is armed with a number of offensive and defensive capabilities which can be utilized to repel the onslaught delivered by the hivemind nemesis. Basic attacks are supplied by the same standards that were displayed in Super Stardust HD, or any modern twin stick shooter for that matter. Movement is charted using the left analog stick whilst lasers are fired using the right however, untraditionally Resogun limits shooting angles to perfectly horizontal – no verticality whatsoever. The removal of varied shooting trajectories adds an interesting dimension of strategy to proceedings as players mustn’t allow enemies to swamp their position, players are completely reliant on mobility – constant movement is a must. The boost ability compliments this need.
Returning players will instantly recognise the boost mechanic as a staple of Housemarque’s twin stick shooters, intelligently viable as both an offensive and defensive maneuver. As previously stated the boosts defensive ability removes players from sticky spots, yet it’s true strength lies in it’s offensive prowess. Colliding with enemy craft whilst boosting will instantly destroy it, every time one is decimated in a single boost the duration is prolonged, therefore stringing together numerous enemy deaths with one long boost is actively encouraged. If engagements ever become too uncontrollable Resogun has two “super” moves that immensely alter the flow of battle – the bomb which levels every present enemy on the area and, overdrive. Overdrive charges as enemies are destroyed, unleashing it using R1 slows time and equips players with a mammoth one shot kill laser, useful for overwhelming encounters.
Like any respectful twin stick shoot ’em up half of the fun lies in tackling online leaderboards that actively encourage players to compete against their own and friends high scores. There’s plenty of boards to contend in here, but if you want to really rake in the points you’ll need to complete levels without dying, keeping a high multiplier and saving the innocent humans trapped within the areas where battle plays out. The multiplier is quite self explanatory, keep hitting enemies, or completing beneficial tasks to keep it climbing, higher multiplier means higher score. Resogun is quite a demanding mistress however, typically any deaths will reset the bonus; fair yet cruel short periods of time without attack will have the same effect. Saving the humans however, is an unorthodox spin unique to Resogun.
Periodically the Dualshock 4 speaker will announce that keepers are present on stage – the same way it divulges up-to-date information throughout the whole game. Keepers are variations of standard foes that shimmer an ominous green by wiping them out in the small time period they’re present the laser gate sealing one of ten humans scattered around the stages circumference will fail releasing them. For big points alongside additional benefits they should be rescued before they’re abducted. An ingenious combination of rescue, attack and multiplier blend into a deliciously smooth recipe that encourages players to be permanently on the offense, add in the captivatingly explosive action and visuals with a dash of catchy dance like synth music and you’ve a winning combination.
It would have been easy for Housemarque to do what was expected of them, make another marvelous Stardust HD entry, but by venturing away from that established franchise they’ve been able to create one of the most masterfully put together twin stick shooter in recent memory. Putting into practice every valuable lesson they’ve learnt over the last couple of years has allowed the studio to develop a game that fixes the very small problems they’ve had in the past whilst strengthening all of their already powerful attributes whilst finally adding a new layer of strategy with humans. Adrenaline pumping, visually stunning; devilishly addictive Resogun is undoubtedly one of Playstation 4’s finest release games and it’s absolutely deserved of a spot in your new collection.