Friday, September 3, 2010
Four Quarter Friday - radiangames Inferno
Indie developer radiangames, though a very recent addition to the XBLIG scene, has become known for producing top notch games for the Indie Game Marketplace. So top notch, in fact, that each of the three games from radiangames (JoyJoy, Crossfire, and the new Inferno) is on the Indie Games Top 20 Rated list on XBox Live; a feat that, to my knowledge, has only been accomplished with the Arkedo Series of Jump, Swap, and Pixel. So we know the latest in the series, Inferno, is both loved and awesome. But what's it like?
Inferno is best described as a combination of their first game, JoyJoy, and a Gauntlet-style dungeon crawler. And I'm not kidding about that first part, as a lot of the look and style will instantly remind you of radiangames' previous twin-stick shooter. You'll take your ship through Inferno's thirty levels of dungeon exploring, with each level requiring you to shoot tons of enemies and their spawn points, acquire keys, and maybe even find a hidden passage to get to the exit. Along the way you'll also find shops that allow you to upgrade various aspects of your ship, such as your health meter or shield recharge, or just go right for the firepower of homing shots and rapid fire. Giving you even more firepower are small drones that hover around your ship. These little guys shoot enemies right along with you. To make this not quite as game-breaking, they also die after one hit. Which isn't so bad, as you'll find roughly a hundred of them over the course of the game, but I'm pretty sure my drone death count was higher than Saving Private Ryan's body count.
Inferno, as stated before, really DOES look a lot like JoyJoy. The screen is filled with simple curved shapes and a small yet bright color scheme, just as in the developer's first twin-stick shooter. Also just like it is the fact that this seemingly simple idea is so fluid and well-executed that it never feels lazy, much like how Bizarre managed to keep neon wireframe from ever feeling derivative in Geometry Wars. The one drawback of Inferno's visuals is that, with all the vibrant colors and bursts, it can get easy to lose track of what's going on or not see a few bullets coming at you due to an overload of bright. The music on the game mimics JoyJoy's energetic synth with appropriately distinct sounds for getting hit, destroying an enemy's spawn point, or losing one of your Gradius Option-like drones. In fact, many times I relied on sound to verify what just happened amid the chaos of bright happy explosions.
If you've played a twin-stick shooter before, you know what you're in store for with the controls. Left stick moves, right stick rains death onto your foes. Thankfully the controls are super tight as later levels will have you dodging a lot of enemies and firepower at once. One interesting addition to the formula is a shield that you use with RT/RB. While active, the shield prevents you from getting hit (and with an upgrade Force pushes the enemies away), but also prevents you from shooting and has a limited, though slowly charging, meter. That little addition not only keeps you from dying a lot but also makes the game a little more involved. Something that helps me out since even some of the best dungeon crawlers tend to make me drowsy after a while.
Speaking of which, if you have the option to do so I highly recommend playing through Inferno with a friend or three. Even though I enjoyed the game in single player, there were some times where I just felt like I was just moving forward and shooting. Adding some couch buddies into the mix made the game not only fly by faster but the additional chaos made the experience feel more fun and fresh, even after just completing the game on my own. If you're worried that all you'll get out of the game is a once through by yourself, don't worry. Three different difficulties and a New Game+ option help extend the life of the game, and since your upgrades can be toggled on and off even after purchasing them, you can customize or handicap yourself however you wish to make your time in Inferno's labyrinths feel more to your liking.
There aren't really any secrets or high scores to go for, unfortunately, which make me more likely to go back and play Crossfire or JoyJoy if I have to pick one of the developer's games to play after the umpteenth time running through each. It's difficult to list that as a valid complaint, though, as this is probably after a few hours of fun for the low price of a buck. It's like getting picky over which Bond girl you'd go on a date with. There's a reason Inferno quickly jumped to the Top 20 Rated list on XBLIG, and it's the same reason radiangames has two other games on that list: it's an exceptionally great title that deserves your dollar.
radiangames Inferno from, ahem, radiangames is available on XBox Live for 80 MSP. Received a review copy from radiangames, played game to completion by my lonesome and played through half the game with my girlfriend, had a blast both times. Also, this game got me out of my writing slump, and for that alone I could promote the game for ages.