by Matthew Thompson
If you’ve played any of the Super Stardust series over the past handful of years, you’ll find yourself instantly familiar with Resogun. Housemarque’s latest twin-stick shooter has you zooming around in a spaceship shooting anything in sight just like its previous series. It features a similar boost mechanic that lets you zip around levels at high speeds destroying any enemies in your path. Screen-clearing bombs can be unleashed to get you out of a jam as well. Despite the obvious similarities, Resogun features numerous tweaks and differences that amount to a superior experience and a fantastic launch title for the PlayStation 4.
Resogun features a cylindrical playfield as opposed to Stardust’s spherical one. Think Defender, but since it takes on the cylindrical appearance you can see things going on in different parts of the level in the background. This added to the boundaries of the play area and the various enemy patterns makes for a much more interesting experience to me. Along with the excellent shooting action, Resogun features some objectives in the form of saving humans. Killing certain enemies called keepers (sometimes in a certain order) or having a certain level multiplier active will unlock humans. From here you must pick them up and shuttle them off to an escape pod. Saving humans gives you bonus points, but it also awards you with upgrades to your weapons, more bombs or even an extra life. There’s also a “Throw Human” button. Besides sounding like feature that should be in every game, it allows you to save a little time (especially when combined with the boost element) by hurling humans towards a pod’s tractor beam.
This brings us to the multiplier element. By killing enemies you will increase a multiplier which obviously bumps up any kind of score you get. To keep this going you constantly have to be killing enemies or picking up/dropping off humans. There is a big element of strategy on how to keep this up. Add in saving humans to the mix and just staying alive and it makes for very frantic yet extremely fun gameplay. The last piece to the puzzle is Overdrive. By collecting green energy left by defeated enemies, you fill up your Overdrive meter. When this is full, you can unleash a super-powerful laser attack that instantly kills any enemies that cross its path. This can be used similar to bombs to help you get out of a jam, but advanced players will want to use it simply to help improve their scores since along with clearing a bunch of enemies out of your way, it gives you a nice bump to your point total.
This kind of thing pervades much of the game. Varying difficulties allow for a range of players to try their hand at the Resogun’s brilliant shooting. Rookie gives players lead time on where enemies will appear while the unlockable Master (and Hero which I can only imagine as of now) resemble more of your typical bullet hell with stuff flying every which way as you do circles to try and keep your ship intact. The higher your difficulty, the higher your multiplier can grow. The game features three ships as well. On one end you have a quick agile ship with great boost abilities and some homing shots. But with weaker bullets enemies take much longer to defeat and less Overdrive power means a hit to your score. On the other end of the spectrum is a slow powerful ship with crazy Overdrive capabilities. Those looking to find a place at the top of the leaderboards are probably better off with this one, but they will have to master moving with a much slower ride. Another more balanced ship lies in between and the same goes for difficulty levels. All this means there are varying ways to approach the game and despite being a very challenging experience it does a good job of letting different levels of players get involved. (Note: Things have changed a little with the recent update including the addition of a ship editor which allows you to customize both the look of your ship and its attributes. I will talk about it more in the upcoming DLC Review).
Online co-op and some tough bosses (that get even trickier when you jump into harder modes) help round out the experience. And it’s pretty damn nice to look at too. Things have sort of a voxel look to them, but it works. I’m not sure it wowed me the way Super Stardust HD did with its crazy particle effects early in the PS3’s life, but there is no denying that the visuals shine here especially considering the fast gameplay.
While this explains how Resogun works and why it’s good, I don’t think it quite expresses how much I enjoyed this game. It feels like near-perfect arcade action to me and I’ve found myself addicted to the game in a way I rarely am with entries from this genre (which to be honest isn’t exactly a favorite genre of mine). It is my favorite arcade shooter ever and while that is obviously not going to be the case with most, it is an easy game to recommend. Even more than half a year after launch it remains my favorite PS4 game.