I’m really into what 10Tons are currently doing with their twin stick shooters where every release is a variation on a theme, be it setting, mechanics or vibe.
I am an absolute sucker for folks tinkering around a formula across multiple games to see where different design decisions lead at the best of times. It’s something I embrace in my own work which I jokingly refer to as “making the same game for ten years” but that’s very much not really the case. There are patterns, formulas, sure — but each time it’s about pushing in a slightly different direction, changing ‘enough’ up and seeing what does and doesn’t work. Each time ending up with a game that feels different to the others.
I’m not really a big believer in the idea that games always have to innovate or push into new spaces, sometimes I like something familiar but not quite. I mean, what’s the point of genres otherwise, right? It’s a comfort thing too. I don’t always want to be learning new stuff or being surprised by something. Sometimes I want peace. OK, it’s a neon and lasers soaked peace but it’s still peace. Kind of. It’s my kind of peace, anyway.
The past few days I’ve been having a ball with Jydge, which brings the get in, get out of Hotline Miami via 2000ad and the world 10Tons built for Neon Chrome. Or, in other words, it’s a game where you play an android (complete with long wig) that’s tasked with clearing out buildings using a very big gun (that just so happens to be in the shape of a gavel) and things explode an awful lot.
There is an absurd amount of ways to clear the buildings thanks to the game throwing upgrades at you right up until the final stages and they’re ridiculously generous upgrades too. This is a game that says no to incremental stat juggling and a very big yes to handing you overpowered toys to play with.
Want to walk through walls? The game will, eventually, let you. Fancy seeing what happens when your Jydge is a giant? The game will let you find out (spoiler: you can’t fit through doors). How about if you were tiny? Yeah, that too. (spoiler: you can fit through doors). Sure it’s an arcade game where every stage is essentially “get in, complete an objective and get out again” but there’s just so many ways of doing that thanks to the huge amount of tweaking you can do.
When each map has 4 variations and 12 tasks to complete, 3 for each variation, there’s plenty of reasons to play around with the upgrade system too. Sometimes it’ll task you to clear a stage fast, sometime to defuse a bomb within a time limit, sometimes to steal everything as you go and of course, somewhere in amongst all this jydging, make sure that civilians survive too. Whilst the first two difficulty levels are a (relative) breeze, the highest two difficulty levels will definitely require a lot more consideration of what you’ll need to tool up with to get the job done.
Got 25 seconds to get in and out? Why not try popping some fast legs on and equip your jydge with the ability to crash through walls. That should do the trick. Need to rescue some hostages? Probably a good idea to ensure your ammunition doesn’t harm them before you go else that’s probably not going to end well.
Also, Jydge has the most amazing commitment to replacing the letter “u” with the letter “y” because why not, eh?
Thinking on, “why not, eh?” Is the perfect summary of the design behind Jydge. It would likely be a good enough game without all the silliness and upgrades, but why not, eh? Put them in anyway so folks can have fun.
Needless to say, I loved Jydge a great deal. Why not give it a try for yourself?
Vextor (iOS/Android) is, easily, the best mobile arena shooter I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
I realise that many folk will read this and think “well, that’s quite a low bar” and you know, I think that’s fair. It’s not a genre that’s immediately well suited to touch controls.
Yak’s iOS take, Minotron, was as good as things got prior to Vextor. Minotron was very good indeed, there’s just the small problem of it no longer being available. There’s other nearly there games, the wonderfully titled Pewpew 2 got close, Geometry Wars 3 was rather let down by being a mobile port of the not-great Geometry Wars 3 but at least controlled okay. And there’s probably a couple more out there that I can’t recall right now. It’s been a while. Oh yeah, the Radian Games stuff – that was, is, pretty good.
Vextor though? Vextor is fantastic. It looks great and it plays great. I kinda wish it had existed sooner but I’m a patient person. Sometimes. Ok. Not often. But I’m sure I could be if I wanted to be.
Visually it owes a clear debt to Geometry Wars with its neon shapes and deformable grid, also to the absolutely wonderful Bezier (which nowhere near enough people have played – please fix that). It’s a lovely combination of two of my favourite arena shooters and, bonus, it has space fish. This is important. Please put a fish in your game.
Interestingly, Vextor plays differently depending on whether you play it in portrait or landscape mode. In landscape, it’s a traditional and familiar twin stick shooter. In portrait, it’s a mobile Neon Wars. (Although both Vextor and Neon Wars arrived at a similar junction independently, I’m glad it gives me a chance to mention a great and forgotten game).
I know most people have never even heard of Neon Wars, let alone played it. It was an attempt at making Geometry Wars work for a wider audience. Mainly, this meant that instead of having to manage with controlling two sticks, the player would only have to occupy themselves with the movement. Instead of the second stick to control shooting, the game settled on a system where you just had to be in the right place and the game would handle firing for you. It worked way better than it sounds on paper and coincidentally, provides the perfect controls for a one handed touch screen game.
So that’s Vextor, then.
It only took ten years or something but it’s really nice to see the Neon Wars control scheme made to work for a second time and more to the point, to finally be able to have a mobile arena shooter that Just Works(TM).
Vextor is fabulous stuff and I’m so glad it exists. Please do consider giving it a try.