Taking the best elements from arcade hits like Geometry Wars and Pac-Man, Saberphrog boils the twin stick shooter genre down to its most basic elements with its new title Shudder. Does it manage to be a trailblazer in the space, or will it leave players a little cold?
The gameplay of Shudder focus on defense just as much as offense. Set in a rectangular playing field, players must find a way to out-maneuver the endlessly spawning para-bugs. There’s just one thing – your ship is not equipped with a gun of any sort. In order to survive, players must consume circular energy balls that dots the landscape. Collect enough energy balls, and players can do a “Shudder” move that immobilizes all enemies in the vicinity. This allows players to run into these once-deadly creatures, collecting points while clearing the screen of hazards.
This might seem like a fairly simple concept, but there are a number of elements in Shudder that give it depth. Different colored enemies require more of the Shudder meter filled, requiring players to dodge larger groups of enemies. In addition, multipliers, speed boosts, and even lives can be earned by running into larger groups of enemies. It offers the same raw thrills that come when Pac-Man finally takes down the ghosts that chase him, and it works exactly as it should.
Things get that much more complex when the Vortex Cubes come into play. By driving enemy hordes into these boxes, you can fill them with cosmic energy. The more enemies that are fed into them, the higher the value of currency they spew out when you Shudder them. This risk-reward system adds some additional challenge for those that are looking for it, and the cosmic currency players can collect can then be used to unlock more than 20 additional ships. These ships have their own multipliers and speed perks baked into them, so those looking to rise the ranks and place on the leaderboard (which has global rankings included) should make the most of the system.
Not all is perfect with Shudder’s neon-infused world, however. Ships can only move in eight different directions, making it somewhat difficult to avoid large throngs of 10+ enemies. In addition, some enemies would be right on top of us, taking one of our lives in the process. Players are given three lives to start, and though the playfield is fairly large, an indicator of some kind would have alleviated much of the frustration that comes with high level play. Finally, there’s not a lot of content here – the arcade mode is the bread and butter of this title, and there are no alternate modes, co-operative settings, or anything of the sort.
Shudder’s score-based gameplay is easy to learn, yet hard to master. Though this package is somewhat barebones, its reliance on defense as well as offense help to give it an alluring quality that encourages replayability.