Intake Review: Like popping pills at a rave without the consequences
Face-melting, brain-bursting, euphoria-oozing catharsis. That seems to be the basis behind the very existence of Intake, the latest project from developer Cipher Prime. Responsible for titles such as the serene puzzler Splice and the wondrous music game Auditorium, the studio is now changing things up and entering different territory yet again. Thankfully, like its previous endeavors, Cipher Prime has managed to once again deliver a riveting experience with Intake, a loud, frenetic, intense arcade shooter bent on lighting the nerve endings in your brain on fire.
The formula on hand here is rather simple. Pills fall down a single screen in two colors and a counter keeps track of how many you need to shoot to progress to the next level. You shoot pills by left clicking on the mouse and switch colors by right clicking. The key to success is to switch to the color of the pills you're shooting. That's the only way to progress and the only way to rack up combos. Shoot the wrong colored pill and you'll lose your combo.
If you shoot the wrong pills, you won't necessarily lose. That said, the bottom of the screen is also colored, and it switches along with your shots when you right click. So if a green pill hits the purple border at the bottom, then you're done. This adds urgency in later levels and makes things even crazier. In addition, it requires you to strategize. You'll soon realize that shooting a certain pill, even if it's the wrong color, and breaking your combo is a worthwhile choice so long as that pill doesn't hit the bottom.
Intake is fairly entertaining from the start, but it really picks up after you put two or more hours into it. There are different power-ups that drastically alter the game that you need to purchase using in-game currency. They're all fairly pricey, though, so it takes time to accrue the necessary funds to unlock the best ones. Power-ups can help you slow down time, make pills bigger, grant you extra lives, and even zap a bunch of pills at once. Purchasing power-ups helps you get further in the game and adds to the overall fun.
There are a total of 100 levels in Intake, with checkpoints available every 25 levels. Once you've reached a certain checkpoint, you can set the game to start from there, or just start from the very first level if you wish. While Intake actually reaches incredible levels of difficulty the further you get, the checkpoint system combined with the different power-ups gives you more of a fighting chance. At the very least, it gives you hope that you'll get to the end, as minor as that hope may be.
Aside from the main game, there are a few unlockable challenges that really test your pill-shooting mettle. One challenge throws pills at you at rapid speeds, making it difficult to hit them all. Another slows the pills down but floods the screen with a bunch of them at once, forcing you to shoot and switch colors with twitch accuracy. These challenges appear in the main game after level 25, and they're ridiculously tough to clear. Their inclusion as bonus challenges encourages leaderboard lovers to shoot for something aside from the regular stages.
The intense and frantic shooting gameplay of Intake is further emphasized by a look and sound straight out of a dance club. The visuals aren't exactly elegant, but they're gritty and filtered to give you something to dart your eyes across for the several hours you'll spend playing. The soundtrack consists of only five songs (which are also unlockables), but it's hard to get tired of them because they fit so perfectly with both the insane action and club visuals of the game. Still, a few more tunes would've definitely helped.
Even if you never reach the final level of Intake, it's still one of those games that just sucks you in and leaves you wanting to play one more round. The challenge can get a bit intense later in the game, but if you dig crazy visuals, loud music, and wild pill-popping, um, pill-shooting, you're bound to get your money's worth. It takes a bit for Intake to really get going, and the high requirements for necessary unlockables are a bit off-putting, but even then, it's impossible to deny that this is one hell of a shooter.
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