Resogun: review

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Watching a game of Resogun is like watching a sci-fi space war on the side of a biscuit tin. Each stage is a small, squat cylindrical shape along which you pilot your little ship on a horizontal plane. You can move in any direction, but can only shoot left or right. You’re given a rechargeable boost, a few smart bombs, the task of rescuing puny humans, and – at a base level – that’s about all the game has to offer. Much like its spiritual great-grandfather Defender, however, Resogun’s simplicity is matched by its ferociously addictive quality.

Theoretically speaking there’s a plot, but the bulk of it consists of the four words that dominate the beginning of each stage whilst spoken by a robotic female voice from your controller; Save The Last Humans. You do this, naturally, by blowing stuff up. Left stick to move, right stick to shoot, buttons for other stuff. It’s just as well that this is a simplistic game, as the ‘other stuff’ is poorly explained or not explained at all, slowing down your understanding of what little else there is to grasp.

The boost mechanic, for example, is vital to success and the chance of even a half-decent score on higher difficulties. All you’re told however is basically that it’s there, and that each enemy you boost into will recharge it slightly. As well as speeding up your ship a little, it both turns it into a weapon and renders you invincible (to enemy fire as well as the enemies themselves). When your boost runs out – or when you release the button – an explosion emanates from your ship for a brief moment, instantly destroying any enemies caught within its radius. The size of the explosion depends on the length of the boost. It’s therefore possible (to an extent) to progress without even using any weapons. Indeed, there’s a trophy for reaching the boss on any stage without firing, which we nabbed – eventually.

“I know what you’re thinking. Did I fire 9876535 shots, or 9876536?”

This is a ‘bullet hell’ shooter. For you kids to whom the phrase means nothing, imagine trying to dance perfectly in one of your ‘night clubs’ whilst everybody else in the building is constantly throwing knives at you. That’s a bullet hell shooter (er, sort of). While such games are notoriously unforgiving, Resogun does manage to cater for a wide audience. Playing on Rookie is a relatively sedate experience; Experienced gets very hard toward the end; Veteran challenges you from the start; and the unlockable Master difficulty roars with laughter at your pathetic attempts to pretend that you’ve played a videogame before.

While it’s mostly about shooting everything whilst avoiding flying straight into an enemy or their bullets, you mustn’t forget that you need to Save The Last Humans. When your joypad tells you ‘Keepers Detected’ that means there is, somewhere, a bunch of enemies with a green glow about to appear. Kill them all within a few seconds to release one of the stage’s ten puny humans from its cage; let just one escape, and a human dies, and it’s all your fault. As a result, it’s a little annoying when Keepers appear the other side of the stage while you’re in the middle of a hurricane of enemies, bullets and lasers. Even with a human released, they’re not safe – you need to find the little green person, pick him/her up, and make it to the nearest escape pod (green light) without dying.

Though you can upgrade your main weapon via pickups, puny humans are your ticket to all other upgrades. Each time you successfully rescue one you’re rewarded with points, or something useful; a temporary one-hit shield, an extra bomb, the holy grail of an extra life, or an upgrade to your Overdrive. The Overdrive is your ship’s super laser. Charged by collecting debris from fallen enemies, it’s a huge green stream lasting only a few seconds that slows time, renders you invincible, increases your score, and does huge damage. Choosing the right moment to use it can make all the difference.

With just five stages, Resogun’s appeal hangs with pretty much all its weight on the leaderboards. Making your mark there is all about keeping the all-important multiplier healthy. Each time you kill an enemy it creeps up ever so slightly, and the maximum is determined by the difficulty you’ve chosen. Needless to say it resets whenever you die, but you’ll also lose it if you go one second too many without shooting anything. This means that, frustratingly, most players are guaranteed to lose their multipliers during a boss fight where the risk/reward mechanic is geared more than ever toward ‘risk’. The game is so superbly designed that deaths only ever feel like your own fault, and you’ll likely refuse to give up until all stages are defeated; and after that you’ll want to test yourself on a higher difficulty and see just how high you can push your top score. How much you’ll be playing it after the first week is questionable, however.

Not sure what those things on the ground are called, but we like to think they’re “Death Trumpets”.

There’s no local multiplayer but online co-op is supported, and the servers are predictably bulging with players. A little surprisingly for a pretty yet simple game, playing online can produce a few visual hiccups – though generally speaking everything runs smoothly. It’s a useful tool for those struggling with certain stages, but you’ll rarely see the other player if you want to win – things get way too confusing with two ships on-screen at once, shooting and surrounded by ever-moving enemies.

It’s based on a decades-old game, and doesn’t do anything the PS3 can’t apart from a few visual effects – and making your controller talk to you – but who cares? Resogun is brilliant fun, and it’s no surprise (though more than a little ironic) that it’s often declared the PS4’s best launch exclusive. There is absolutely no excuse for PS4-owning Plus subscribers to not download this for free, and it’s unlikely to disappoint those who pay for it either.

critical score 8

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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