Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sea Strike! - Pen and Ink Outline


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And you thought your commute home was rough...


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We work hard, we play hard.

Freeware Profile: Gamma Bros.
Devloper: PixelJam
Platform: PC and Mac
Genre: Space Shooter

What happens when you combine the classic EGA/VGA low-resolution visual style of the early 90's PC titles with the acquired knowledge and limitless potential of modern gaming mechanics? Gamma Bros! A seemingly simplistic freeware title that at first may have a rather incomplex surface but once you begin to explore the gameplay you can really start to appreciate the love and effort that went into creating this wonderful game. By combining the time tested and classic 'Space Shooter' arcade genre with the solid foundation of modern gameplay and rewards this game truly proves that while the retro days of gaming may be dwarfed by today's AAA titles and million dollar budgets, all you really need is an understanding of the fundamentals of game design, some elbow grease and a little nostalgic love to produce a timeless game.

Gamma Bros. plays somewhat like a mixture of Gradius and Galaga, complete with swarming enemy formations, power-ups, upgrades and the fast, frantic gameplay you would come to expect from any great arcade shooter. Meaning that the game is easy to pick up on but requires some time and practice to master. The controls are simple, using the arrow keys in combination with the W, A, S and D keys allows your ship to move and shoot in four directions, similar to the controls used in titles like Smash T.V. The difficulty level begins nice and easy, slowly building up to a chaotic fast paced frag fest that requires quick reaction time and steady eye-hand coordination.

From the title screen the attention to detail is apparent, if you watch closely you'll see several separate scenarios playing out at once as the two Gamma Bros. hustle back and forth fiddling with computers, dialing knobs, pressing buttons and even taking a break to get a drink from the water cooler. There's also busy little helper robots that bustle to-and-fro. Very cool.

As soon as the player hits start and chooses their bro to play as the game begins. The catchy (awesome) theme song kicks in and you're off! Immediately upon exiting the large space station swarms of enemies begin to attack from every direction, enemy ships organize in formation and attack in sequence. Dodging and weaving while blasting away the squadrons of enemies you'll collect coins and power-up capsules that are left behind from defeated foes. These include temporary speed and firing boosts as well as health, shields, destructive smart bombs and invincibility capsules. Every so often a small ship towing gun upgrades, new ships and other useful items sails steadily across the screen, if you've collected enough coins these upgrades are extremely useful. By providing these rewards the gameplay value is accentuated, keeping the players interest focused on reaching that next gun or ship upgrade, becoming that much more powerful.

If the life bar reaches zero your ship is destroyed but you still have one more chance! As your ship explodes into pieces your Gamma Bro will be able to zoom through space via jet-pack and bubble helmet, allowing for one more hit to be taken before being destroyed. If you're lucky and still have the other Gamma Bro alive he'll eventually come coasting back onto the screen and you can then touch him to switch off via tag team. It's even possible to reacquire a lost ship, when buying a new shuttle the old one will be boarded and piloted by the other bro. A very well executed and helpful mechanic.

The battles are heated and fast, as you blast the attackers to 'bits', square colored plumes of smoke bellow as tiny fragments of scrap metal swirl out into space. Each enemy has a specific AI and method of attack, ranging from the simple drones who slowly form small groups to the quick and nimble spacemen (my personal favorite) who dive bomb and shoot fast pulsing lasers. Of course no space shooter would be complete without the infamous bosses. Sudden and tough, even the first boss encounter consists of pitting the player against three deadly quick battleships equipped with an array of wicked weaponry, from heat seeking missiles, tri-laser beams and even a giant destruct-o beam (that's what I'm calling it anyway). Throughout these battles I found myself so immersed in the gameplay it took me a moment to realize just how in-tuned I was with the action. I believe that connection is what all gamers seek, the thrill of the moment... That lovely video adrenaline rush.

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Shoot, move and SHOOT!

The music switches from an ambient, deep, thick bass drive to a sudden shift in gears becoming a faster, more intense melody when a new event begins. It's a great effect for carrying the player along, heightening suspense and then snapping into an action sequence. My favorite part about the music is that it's entirely composed of the familiar bleeps and bloops we've all come to know and love from yesteryear... Except it has a more modern structure, a more "21st Century" attitude.

Gamma Bros. is a title that every gamer, new and old alike should play. It houses so many solid gameplay mechanics and is abundant with enough variety and rewards to keep the player coming back again and again. Besides, these guys are giving you a grade 'A' game for FREE! I can't stress it enough, go download it today! PixelJam has created some really unique titles that all have rich attention to detail, solid gameplay elements and tons of replay value to boot... Each one is definitely worth checking out.

PixelJam.com