Inksplosion

Like I wasn’t going to give a game called Inksplosion that looks like this a try.

You know, me liking colours and all that.

Let’s just stop for a second again and do another screenshot (all pics here taken from the Steam page because I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting the ones off my PS4, sorry)

Yeah, there was absolutely no way I was going to let this pass me by.

Just look at those colours, they’re fantastic. Go on, let’s do one more picture.

It’s some sort of visual hybrid of (my own) War Twat and the all time greatest Asteroids game of all time, Spheres Of Chaos. That’ll do me.

Sorry. I’ll calm down now. I’m okay. I haven’t been this excited about colours in a game since Ultralight Beam. It’ll pass in a second.

Anyhoo. As twin stick shooters go, there’s probably few surprises here. You’re faced with a jumble of waves and each wave finds you having to use a different weapon to clear the screen. Clear the screen, move on to the next wave. You now have a different weapon. Shoot those baddies! Clear the screen! And so on.

There isn’t really that much to distinguish each weapon from the other and as far as I played, not much to distinguish each enemy from the other either. But that’s okay, yeah? I’m not playing this for mechanical marvels, I’m playing this because I really really like watching colours explode across the screen and Inksplosion does that perfectly.

Inksplosion is, primarily, a game about making things explode to smear colour across the screen. Every thirty seconds or so the mess will be cleared up and you get to do it all over again.

My only real gripe is that the announcer that declares each weapon you find yourself suddenly equipped with comes across more Viv Stanshall On Tubular Bells than befitting of an arcade game but I’ll freely admit that I have very, very specific ideas of what speech in arcade games should sound like. Also, I dearly love a lot of Bonzo stuff but Tubular Bells brings me out in hives. Not sure I can put the blame for that on Inksplosion, really.

Phew. Got a bit lost there, sorry. Anyway. Inksplosion set me back about four quid and I don’t regret a penny of it. I plumped for the PS4 version but other formats are available.

Mastercube

Due to the eldest having an insatiable desire for more videogames (I have no idea where they get that from), I’ve recently taken out a PlayStation Now subscription in the vain hope of getting somewhere close to satisfying their cravings at some sort of vaguely affordable level.

Of course, this has the advantage of giving me the opportunity to wade through a bunch of videogames I may not have taken a chance on otherwise. And of course, I’m still me so obviously the first game I gave a try was a twin stick shooter.

That’ll be Mastercube, then.

Honestly, there’s not a lot to write about Mastercube. I’ve flicked through the internet a bit and it’s mostly complaining elsewhere. It’s too small. It’s not Geometry Wars. Nothing surprising, anyway. And sure enough, it is a pretty basic twin stick shooter and if you’ve played Geometry Wars in its earlier incarnations you’ll be well prepped for what to expect. But here’s the thing, yeah.

I really like small twin stick shooters.

Yeah, yeah, I’m down for something with the beautiful complexity of Bezier, the sheer design wonderment of Nex Machina and whatever else there is but sometimes I just want to sit back, load up a game for five minutes, shoot some things then turn it off. MasterCube fits that bill just fine.

It’s got a nice speedy pace to it, it controls well enough, everything explodes in a perfectly explody fashion and crucially, it’s all played out to a pub rock soundtrack. That was definitely not what I expected in the slightest and it really does make a nice change from the generic electronica that normally bleeps over short form twinstick games.

I’m not sure it’s the sort of game where I’d want to get into a high score chase with, either against friends or trying to beat my own score with any sort of urgency and you know, I don’t really care either. I just kinda liked it, yeah? I enjoyed putting my feet up, spinning around a bit and dealing some laser death whilst a Deep Purple tribute band did their thing in the background. That’s enough for me.

And maybe that’s not enough for you, fair’s fair and that. I’m definitely glad I gave Mastercube a shot though. Like I say, it’s small, it’s simple. And that is a perfectly okay thing to be. I’ll definitely be revisiting it over time.

(gameplay video not my own)

R-Coil

I’m the first to admit that I tend to gravitate towards the flashier end of the arena shooters spectrum. I am, if nothing else, forever in awe of games that flash lights at you.

I know, I know, I’m an easy sell. A few neon glow effects and I’m suckered. In my defence though, I’m still a big fan of games that aren’t all that, even if (in my not so humble opinion) they could be. Like, erm, R-Coil for example.

It’s not that R-Coil doesn’t have it’s fair share of glowiness, it absolutely does, it’s just most definitely more restrained than most. It’s more Vectrex than Geometry Wars. And this is fine. Absolutely totally fine. I happen to like the Vectrex a fair bit. More than a fair bit, even.

Which is lucky because R-Coil eschews a lot of the more modern conceits we’ve come to associate with the arena shooters genre and not only looks like a Vectrex game but plays a great deal like one too. Albeit, a Vectrex game written by an absolute monster.

You see, whilst looking and feeling like an early eighties vector game, R-Coil is also an incredibly mean game. That’s a compliment, by the way. I happen to like my videogames mean sometimes.

The trick R-Coil is based around is one where your firing and your momentum are tied to the same buttons. There’s some stuff about your ship being broken blah blah blah but the essence of the game is that if you want to move, you’re going to have to be firing your guns to do so. But also, firing your guns is going to have some serious recoil. Hence, umm, R-Coil. Luckily, holding down the fire button will shunt you forward at speed giving you some control over your forwards momentum. Some.

As a result of this slightly brutal movement mechanism, R-Coil is a much more sedate game than most recent arena shooters aspire to be. Where the Geometry Wars formula is one where the screen is often filled with enemies, if not racing towards you then spawning around you, R-Coil plops just a handful on screen at a time. It’s a game that deliberately derives its difficulty from its controls and needs to give you more space than most else you’d be done for in seconds.

It’s masterable. Honest, it is. I’m not going to pretend it won’t take a fair few goes just to last more than however many seconds but it’s perfectly possible to hit a rhythm with it, to settle in to knowing how firing will effect your whereabouts on the screen, to know when it’ll push you away or towards danger. To know when to tap the fire button and when to hold to propel yourself forwards.

Once I’d found that rhythm myself, I began to really enjoy my time with the game. Sure, I would still die often (often at the hands of the same enemy, at that) but I didn’t care because *grits teeth* I was going to score higher very soon no matter what and there was nothing the game could do to stop me.

Well, except kill me again, of course. Which it did do. Frequently. But aside from that.

R-Coil is the sort of small, simple, game that I can pump a silly amount of time into. It’s a few quid on Steam and well worth a look. Oh, and it also has a nice accessibility mode where it removes lives and just lets you play, you know, in case you find the steep difficulty a bit much.