Resogun is a vibrant, chaotic maelstrom of polished goodness. It’s effectively addictive, surprisingly imaginative at times, and hugely challenging. In short, it’s the type of game that will appeal to those who remember the classic arcade shoot-‘em-ups of a time long gone. No, the term “shooter” in those days didn’t involve a dude with a gun; it pertained to a side-scrolling (vertical or horizontal) game in which a spaceship of some kind shoots anything that comes in its direction. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Housemarque’s latest feels old or dated.
‘Cuz it’s anything but. While we don’t get fantastic character models and an ultra-realistic environment that reminds us of the world outside our doors, we do get a beautiful, colorful harmony. It’s actually amazing just how well the developer implements such a wide variety of designs and animations. They’re not really even using the entire screen and yet, you’re constantly entranced by the maelstrom of perfectly orchestrated visuals. The effects are just spectacular and provided you’re not prone to seizures or headaches, this is a graphical display that’s an absolute feast for the senses. You won't be able to look away.
And when I say senses, I’m speaking of hearing as well as seeing. Behind the gorgeous destructible environments that always demand your greedy eye’s attention, there’s the stirring audio. It’s crisp, rousing and it certainly fits the psychedelic visual insanity. It can be hard to gauge the variety of the soundtrack, though, just because you’re always so intent on survival. But it’s great that when you do succeed, the score is right there to reward you with a satisfying set of special effects. From a graphics and sound standpoint, Resogun is extremely well produced; it’s a great example of shining, brilliant simplicity, and it’s plenty stable as well.
If you’re old enough, you remember a game called Defender. It was a side-scrolling shooter that let you move left and right in an effort to rescue stranded humans. This is the basic premise of Housemarque’s ultra-fancy creation, but there are a whole lot of new ideas and mechanics involved. For instance, the entire game is set within this rotating cylinder of sorts, so it’s a rotating, looping 2D environment that is endlessly changing. Furthermore, while you didn’t have much of an arsenal in Defender, you’re well equipped to deal with the assault headed your way in each challenging stage.
There are all sorts of dangers, including floating laser cannons that get in your way, and a particularly annoying foe that actually breaks into smaller versions of the original ship when struck. The cool part is that despite the seemingly relentless nature of the gameplay, because of the looping map, you can move away to take a break. Sometimes, that feels absolutely necessary because the situation can often become overly frantic. On top of which, you really do need to have a strategy most times; you can’t hope to be successful by firing wildly in every direction. Firstly, you have to know how to go about saving those stranded, helpless humans.
See, when the stage begins, the humans are prisoners and can’t be picked up until you destroy the “keeper” ships. These enemies only show up for a certain amount of time, so you need to nail ‘em before they disappear, or those precious prisoners can’t be rescued. However, even if you can drop a keeper ship, that doesn’t mean the human is safe; you still have to go pick him up. And you better be fast about it, because they’re just wandering around a raging battlefield and it won’t be long before they bite the dust. Once you have the humans safely secured, you can bring them to one of two tractor beams located at the top of the map. Do that, and you will be appropriately rewarded for your diligence.
Each ship comes equipped with several extremely useful abilities. There’s overdrive, boost and bombs; those bombs are great for clearing out a large set of frustrating opponents. And you always have to remember to focus on your score multiplier if you’re at all interested in scoring high. The leaderboard isn’t much of a draw for someone like me, so I don’t care much about a score multiplier, but I know some people play these games to drag down super high scores. You know, just like in the old days when the only goal of playing most video games was to get the highest score possible.
For me, I like the strategy and inherent challenge of Resogun. I like that it’s not merely about fast reactions and staring at the screen without blinking for extended periods of time. The control is great and given your ship’s capabilities, you’re always thinking about the best possible approach to a stage. You want to collect as many green voxels as you can (left behind by defeated enemies), so you can build up your overdrive meter, which results in a massive jet. You can also select just the right time to boost, which isn’t about more speed; it’s about greater damage dealt. Anything that involves some thought and planning tends to pique my interest.
However, I still say games like these are just way to unforgiving. The bosses in this game are freakin’ awesome but they’re also freakin’ hard, and if you really sucked it up during your run through the previous stage, you won’t be in any condition to face that boss. That’s one of the biggest problems I have with the game. There were many times when I started over, not because I wasn’t going to pass the stage, but simply because I knew I didn’t have enough left in the tank to face the boss. That being said, I do appreciate the level of creativity that went into developing such bosses; figuring out how to beat them is one of the better aspects of this experience.
The odd part is this— Given the simple, straightforward nature of the game and the controls, this could be fantastic for newcomers. Some of those newcomers might even remember the old arcade games, thereby making it even easier for them to dive into this new title. However, it’s just so ridiculously over-the-top tough that nobody who isn’t a confirmed hardcore gamer will take any interest. I understand that that’s obviously the intended demographic here, but even so, I say it’s a missed opportunity. And on top of that, I would consider myself to be an avid gamer and I still think it’s a little too frustrating. I don’t believe in putting a game on the easiest setting!
Resogun also falls a little short when it comes to a lack of variety. It’s nice to have three ships but there are only five stages, and this – coupled with the basic nature of the gameplay – makes things feel somewhat repetitive. Besides that, this is an old-school shooter with a massive, awesome upgrade, one that’s slick, polished, and ceaselessly entertaining. The visual and auditory effects are sweet, the challenge is appreciated (even if you occasionally want to throw the controller), the strategy is a nice twist, and the overall presentation is to be commended. Above all else, this is one of those games that can hook you and never, ever let go. That can be dangerous, even if it’s also fun.
The Good: Blistering, super slick technical presentation. Excellent balance and control. Very cool twist on a classic concept. Boss fights are hugely creative and imaginative. Wonderfully addictive. Stiff challenge can lead to big rewards.
The Bad: Forbidding difficulty, especially with the bosses. Not quite enough variety. Caters almost exclusively to the hardcore.
The Ugly: “Once again, my chances of taking the boss down have evaporated. Fu***** great.”
12/2/2013 Ben Dutka