Feb 23, 2012
Neoteria is the newest game from OrangePixel, another retro-inspired affair. This time, they tackle the horizontally-scrolling shoot ‘em up, as this title takes inspiration from games like R-Type and Gradius. The story is light as it tends to be in these games: there’s some dialog at the start of each level, but nothing that is particularly essential. What is essential is taking out as many enemies as possible, advancing to the next checkpoint in each level (there are infinite lives here, but also a power down punishment for dying), trying just to survive against the onslaught of enemies.
The traditional OrangePixel art style is here: pixel art, and 16-bit-esque chiptunes. The game has the look and feel of a title like R-Type, only slightly less frustrating. I emphasize slightly, because the game is still challenging, even on its easiest difficulty. It just doesn’t feel impossible. Also, the removal of horizontal movement is a great decision for a mobile shmup, as it’s just one fewer factor to be concerned with.
The weapon upgrade mechanic from INC returns here, where collectibles dropped by enemies can be used for more powerful weapons. This bar decreases on death and it’s possible for weapons to downgrade, so replaying earlier levels becomes necessary to keep it up. Unlike INC, the power-down is much less on death, so while grinding is still somewhat necessary, it’s less of an annoyance. I still have issues with the power down, but it is orders of magnitude less annoying, though it becomes very necessary in later levels, and grinding that first world becomes boring after a short while.
A lot of the game isn’t really explained in the game itself. How does the star system work, and why do I have two stars on some levels and one star on others? How do the branching paths unlock? No clue!
The controls are rather fussy, if only because the up/down buttons are rather small. The game supports physical controls on the Xperia Play, and external controls on tablets and phones with USB host support and the’re far superior to the button controls, as too often have I tried to move in one direction, only for nothing to happen because I wasn’t pressing on the button. This is where the Reckless Racing control customization would have come in handy, to define custom touch areas for each button.
Neoteria is frustrating in two senses: first, in the sense that most retro shmups are. It nails that aspect. The second comes from the grinding and touch control issues. The free version is definitely worth checking out for those curious.