Review: Glow

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Glow, Impetus Games’ new high-score-’em-up shooter for PC, drops you into the insectoid cockpit of an ace firefly, shooting projectile spit down at creepy spiders and slimy slugs from an isometric, behind-the-glowing-butt viewpoint. It’s a no-frills game of wave survival as you splat creepy-crawlies to score points while darting around to avoid returning enemy fire against increasingly overwhelming odds. Shoot, kill bugs, score points, stay alive. That about sums up the general gist of the gameplay.

Steering takes some getting used to and aiming could maybe be a little more precise, but the flight controls overall are intuitive and easy to grasp. WASD keys are used to pilot the firefly’s general movement, while sliding the mouse sideways turns the camera view, and moving the mouse forward and backward adjusts the distance of the targeting cursor.

As you squash spiders and wrack up points, new perks become unlocked to expand the firefly’s firepower as the going gets tougher and tougher in the battles ahead. The firefly has four main loadout slots: Light Attack, Heavy Attack, Passive, and Ordinance. Light attacks, fired with left mouse clicks, are the primary, ammo-less, pew-pew-pew form of attack, including weapons such as a basic, single-shot blaster, shotgun, machinegun, and sniper shot. Heavy attacks, which require glow power to fire by holding Shift, Ctrl, or Alt while left clicking, include more powerful weapons like acid spray, a flamethrower, force pull bomb, 50mm cannon, homing missile, and a brain damage strike that uses pheromones to temporarily charm spiders to your side. Ordinance weapons, deployed with right clicks, include limited-ammo explosives like proximity mines and mini-nuke glow bombs, while passive perks provide traits like auto health regeneration, increased glow recharge rate, and AI minions that serve as little wingmen, helping to attack the arachnid horde.

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Whereas the perk system provides a robust arsenal of weaponry as well as a broad range of loadout combination possibilities to find the right fit for your play style, unfortunately there is a severe lack of variety in both enemy types and map environments. Stage after stage, the game’s a never-ending war against the same few spiders and slugs, pitched on the same canyon and meadow landscapes. In spurts there’s enough action to hold your attention for a map or two, but play any longer than that and the game begins to devolve into a dull slog.

It doesn’t help that the visuals are so dark, which limits visibility and shadows everything in a gloom of sameness. Which is a shame, because the game’s Unreal Engine 4 lighting, shadows, and particle effects showcase some spectacular eye candy and set a tense atmosphere, while flowers and glowing vegetation shine through the darkness with brief pops of vibrant color. I know the game is based around a firefly so it only makes sense to have a nighttime setting, but that doesn’t mean every map has to be so pitch dark to the point of obscuring the enemy models and terrain detail underneath. The music and sound effects lack oomph as well; it’s especially odd that there is no sound whatsoever in the menus or even during the boot-up logo splash.

One thing Glow does do very well is provide a balanced experience for both casual and skilled players. Glow is not a pure arcade shooter. By that I mean you don’t play single high score runs with a limited number of lives and then lose score progress at game over. Instead, progress is persistent across every attempt. Whether you clear a map or die in the process, points earned during each attempt are added to an overall high score total (synched with a global online leaderboard), which means no matter what you’re always accumulating points towards unlocking new perks.

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For each stage successfully survived, a persistent challenge rating also goes up, and as the value of the challenge rating rises, each successive map becomes more difficult by adding to the total number of enemies that need to be killed, speeding up the enemy spawn rate, or increasing the minimum number of enemies that can appear on the map simultaneously. It’s a pretty clever system for maintaining a steady difficulty curve–though sadly it still doesn’t do much to prevent every level from feeling like an exercise of rinse and repeat.

Glow doesn’t have the addictive allure–that “something special”– that the best top-down shooters are known for, but Impetus Games has built a foundation of solid mechanics and snazzy special effects. For quick blasts of high score action, there certainly is worthwhile, albeit fleeting, entertainment value to be had. Though the game could use livelier colors and more discernible visual detail, the simple addition of a wider variety of creatures and maps would give the game the longer lasting hook that it so desperately needs. As is, what starts off with a promising glow quickly begins to fade before reaching its brightest potential.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Simple high-score-’em-up wave survival
+ Awesome variety of unlockable perks and weapon loadout combos
+ Flashy lighting and particle effects

Cons:
– Lighting is too dark, causes poor visibility
– Severely limited variety of enemies, environments
– UI lacks sound; audio lacks impact overall

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Impetus Games
Developer: Impetus Games
Release Date: 10/14/2016
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by developer

Buy From: Steam for $4.99

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!