Atomhex, Xbox 360 - 80MS Points
Review by LewieP
Dual Stick shooters have seen a bit of a wonderful resurgence in the last few years, and you can very easily track it back to the release of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on the Xbox Live Arcade.
A guy called Marco Incitti decided to make a clone of Retro Evolved for the PC, and make a freely downloadable title on his web site. I played it, and it was pretty damn good. Whilst at a cursory glance it did look feel and play in a very similar fashion to Retro Evolved, there was actually a lot more to it, with new and different mechanics that massively change how you play the game.
Then, quite possibly since there was a PC port of Retro Evolved in the pipeline, Bizarre contacted him saying:
"We're beginning to feel the effects of the Geometry Wars clones on our sales via Microsoft now and are beginning a process to begin to more robustly protect our copyright and intellectual property.
Therefore, I'd like to ask you in an amicable fashion to stop infringing our IP and pull the game 'Grid Wars' from the internet for download.
I hope you understand and are able to do this without us having to take further steps."
Which was a pretty big mistake in my opinion. They were right to defend their IP, but they missed an opportunity by not offering him a job.
Marco did the right thing and took Grid Wars down (but if you interested, I bet you can find it somewhere in the internet's shadier corners), and set to work making his own completely original game. Atomhex is the end product.
It is a pretty crowded market place, and to stand out you need to have a least one major unique selling point. Atomhex has several, but quite possibly it being only 80 MS Points is the biggest. Frankly I think Atomhex is largely under priced. 240 would still be an excellent price for it.
It's a thinking persons dual stick shooter, which is essentially code for meaning "Shooting everything is not the best route to success".
The gameplay is about as complicated to describe as it is to play. There are several types of "enemies" all with very specific behaviour.
Firstly, there are atoms, these are innocuous floating things that if you touch, bounce off you. You get a few points for shooting one of these. If two of them touch, they will transform into a nasty enemy which will (temporarily) remove your ability to shoot if it gets you, then set a trap.
Then there are Hex. These are coloured dots with a small force field. If you shoot its force field, you can then absorb it for points, and it will also change your bullets to be the same colour as it. If a Hex absorbs an atom, it will then emit enemies.
The more atoms a hex absorbs, the nastier the enemies is shoots out. A hex that has absorbed at least one atom is only vulnerable to bullets the same colour as it.
Also - when a hex absorbs 6 atoms, the whole screen is cleared, and you zoom in to it for sort of a boss battle, called going "subatomic".
That lot all sounds fairly convoluted, because it is. I've not even touched on the powerups, chaining, or multipliers.
Don't take that as a complaint though. It's a solidly made shooter that does take time to learn how to play, but the important thing is that it is still fun to play even as a dumb shooter. You could switch off the mathsy high score calculating part of your brain and still have a lot of fun with Atomhex.
It is pretty, sounds great and costs 80ms points. I swear if I see anyone with Avatar clothing they have paid for who has not bought this I'll probably cry.
It's everything the Xbox indie games should be. Original ideas, well executed, and lots of personality. Give the demo a go at least I think.