Review: Energy Invasion

An Arkanoid clone with a dual-stick shooter twist, Energy Invasion pairs familiar ball-and-paddle gameplay with an alternative approach to busting bricks. The genre basics haven’t changed: You slide a paddle back and forth along the bottom of the screen to deflect an orb hurtling upward at hovering targets, all of which must be cleared from the screen in order to complete one stage and move on to the next. If the orb falls past the paddle, you lose a life, and certain blocks become harder to break once the ball is put back into play.

What’s new here is the simple fact that the orb itself, henceforth known as the energy sphere, does not act as a wrecking ball per usual. On the contrary, the energy sphere is incapable of causing direct damage to the bricks it comes in contact with. Instead the sphere acts as a sort of spaceship, capable of firing off smaller projectile spheres at a range of 360-degrees. So while sliding the paddle with the left analog stick to keep the energy sphere in play, you must simultaneously tilt the right stick to fire rockets from the sphere, adjusting aim as it bounds and ricochets across the screen. Mouse and keyboard controls are supported on the PC version, but the twin-stick shooter design feels more at home on a gamepad.

Energy Invasion features three modes, each with a dedicated Steamworks high score leaderboard. Invasion mode incorporates combative elements in the form of green clusters of garbled pixels that fire harmful projectiles down at the paddle, causing an instant death should you fail to dodge them. Gas clouds floating among the blocks also absorb spheres, preventing them from being able to pass through to hit targets on the other side, forcing you to be more precise or use wall deflections to bounce spheres to the intended target. Linear mode ditches the enemies for bricks that steadily creep down the screen à la Space Invaders. Should even one cross beyond the plane of the paddle, it’s an immediate game over. Then there’s Endless mode, which speaks for itself.

Invasion and Linear each consist of 25 stages. Extra lives can be earned as you progress through the layers, but should you ever run out a continue can be used to pick up from the start of the current stage at the cost of a penalty to your overall score. Difficulty options for easy and normal tweak the core element to each mode. For example, playing Invasion or Endless on easy deactivates enemy projectiles altogether (this is the way to go as enemy fire doesn’t really add fair challenge but rather cheap situations of unavoidable death), while Linear on easy slows down the scroll speed of the descending bricks. The scaling of bricks that require multiple hits to clear also seems to change based on the chosen difficulty.

Arbitrarily altering gameplay are various bonuses, which take effect seemingly at random and without any on-screen indicator. Spontaneously, you’ll receive a larger paddle, activate a red barrier that serves as a temporary force field along the bottom of the screen, or gain an increase or decrease to rate of fire. Sometimes fired spheres will even suddenly freeze in place. How and when these bonuses are activated is entirely unclear, which creates confusion, as well as a sense that you’re at the whim of some random number generator behind the scenes. Power-up drops represented by visual icons, which you could choose to pick up or avoid, would have made a lot more sense, and been less confusing.

What’s worse is just how nondescript the game is. While the snazzy wireframe visualizer effects and electronica beats create a suitably trippy trance vibe, the brick designs are dull and reused from start to finish without variation, and the configurations of the bricks are never particularly interesting or eye-catching. The audio design is especially disappointing, because aside from the music the game is virtually devoid of sound effects. With the music switched off the game literally goes mute. The lack of even basic sounds for firing spheres or deflections removes any potential for excitement or feeling a sense of impact.

Energy Invasion is a decent attempt at a Breakout twin-stick shooter mashup, but even with its unique spin on the familiar brick-breaking mechanic the game overall fails to hit the spot. It’s not a terrible game, it’s just bland and missing the all-important one-more-game quality that simple arcade games like this so desperately need to have. I never found myself having legitimate fun, but rather felt like I was going through the motions without achieving any meaningful sense of accomplishment. As a staunch supporter of the classic brick-breaker in all the forms and variations it’s taken over the years, I wish I could offer a more positive impression. But sadly I can’t find enough here to warrant even a tepid recommendation.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Unique twin-stick shooter spin on the classic brick-breaker
+ Trippy visualizers and soundtrack are easy to trance out to

Cons:
– Nondescript and forgettable
– Nonexistent sound effects
– Unclear bonuses and enemy projectiles make for arbitrary difficulty variation

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PC, also on PS4, PS Vita, and Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Sometimes You
Developer: Sometimes You
Release Date: 1/10/2018
Genre: Arcade/Action
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1

Source: A Steam code for Energy Invasion was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration by Sometimes You.

Buy From: Energy Invasion is out on Steam, PlayStation Store, and Nintendo eShop for $2.99.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!