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Resogun Review: Keeper detected

Resogun Screenshot - Huge blast

Resogun is Geometry Wars 2013.

There’s no better way to describe it for those that were there for the 360 launch back in 2005. The stage was shockingly similar -- the first next-gen platform to market came along with a suite of games that ranged from decent-to-awful, without a ton of big, standout titles to truly define the console. Still, there was Geometry Wars, and it was amazing.

The ironic thing was that Geometry Wars wasn’t much more than a showcase of particle effects. It was an arcade style, laser light show that really didn’t do much to show off the 360 as a crazy technical marvel. It didn’t matter though, because it was fun, addicting, and everyone that touched it fell in love. Yeah, new hardware was a good thing, but Geometry Wars proved that it was still all about the quality of the game.

Resogun accomplishes many of the same goals. It’s graphically impressive but it isn’t a showcase the way Killzone: Shadowfall or Battlefield 4 is. It’s simple and fun, and it doesn’t aspire to define the PS4 in any substantial way. It just is what it is, and what it is is really fantastic.

Resogun

If Geometry Wars was a modern take on Asteroids or Robotron, then Resogun is our modern Defender. Players pilot a ship that can move and shoot left or right using the two thumbsticks. Each stage is set on a cylinder, so whether you’re going left or right you’ll always loop back around. This adds an interesting amount of spacial awareness, since players can see what’s coming way in advance, and even eye power-ups on the other side of the stage.

At first Resogun is a bit obtuse. It has a few layers of rules and it doesn’t do much to explain them, but once you understand the scoring and power-ups, they are really satisfying. It goes like this -- humans around the stage are caged and must be freed by destroying green-glowing enemies called Keepers. Once a human is released it wanders around awaiting your pick up. Without dying, you must bring the human to one of many safe zones around the stage. Doing this isn’t necessary to your progress or survival, but it does net you weapon upgrades, shields, extra lives, bombs, and additional points.

In addition, a score multiplier continually racks up as long as you maintain a steady stream of death, requiring you to be mindful of enemy patterns and smartly space out your attacks. Those enemies come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and patterns as well. Half the fun of Resogun is watching the hypnotic gyrations of one hundred enemies as they’re pulverized into dust.

Resogun

That dust is worth mentioning as well. Resogun may not be that showpiece game, but it definitely seems like something you couldn’t do on Xbox 360 or PS3. The entire game is constructed from voxels, allowing developer Housemarque to create instances of insane, dynamic destruction. When a stage ends and everything explodes, there must be hundreds of thousands of voxels blasting all over the screen. It’s quite beautiful.

Resogun might be a short game, with only five levels that can be quickly finished on the game’s easiest mode, but it hides a ton of replay value. Merely finishing the game on higher difficulties is an incredible challenge that will put even the bravest Geometry Wars vets to the test. The layers of scoring systems add to the replay value, as perfecting a run and saving all the humans can be super satisfying. Honestly, if I had a concern, it would be that I’d play these five levels and put Resogun down, but I haven’t done that yet.

What’s more, Resogun features a thoughtful and polished online co-op mode. Playing with a friend is a fantastic experience, and the gameplay is bolstered by the teamwork potential. Sometimes a Keeper is a bit too far away, or a human is about to fall into oblivion, and two players covering ground and communicating can really add to the experience.

Housemarque has been at this for a while, with their Super Stardust games scratching a similar itch, but they’ve never been quite this engaging. Super Stardust is fun and all, but Resogun is an immediate classic that sits beside Geometry Wars as both a console launch savior and beautiful ode to the arcade shooter’s past and ongoing future. There are homages to Defender and Asteroids, sure, but it’s those touches from bullet-hell shooters like Ikaruga that make Resogun feel like a complete shoot ‘em up package. It’s a simple, small game that hits all its marks. What more can we ask for?

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

Amazing

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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