Remember when the Xbox 360 came out and the best game was a little twin stick shooter called Geometry Wars? Wasn’t it silly how one of the cheapest, graphically simple, and old school games was better than a lot of the “next-gen” experiences? Wouldn’t it be pretty funny if that happened again?
Sixty Second Shooter Prime is a loving homage to Geometry Wars. It plays similarly, but through a system of stages and unlockables, allows players to skip over the build-up period of that classic game and get straight into the insanity. In fact, the goal is to get to the crazy stuff as fast as possible and then live in it until sixty seconds runs out. One wrong move and it’s all over.
The game gets the most out of that sixty seconds of fun by building up toward the “true” final game. Imagine if Geometry Wars’ initial 10,000 point build-up was skipped over entirely after you did it a few times. Sixty Second Shooter Prime builds up in this way. It introduces new mechanics and power-ups one at a time, providing options to skip the earlier stuff once it becomes common knowledge.
You begin with a ship that can fire its peashooter in any direction. Enemies resemble Asteroids rocks, splitting up into smaller pieces. It’s all rather low-key despite the pulsing soundtrack and neon color scheme. A green arrow points toward a portal, coaxing you toward greater challenges, and every time you go through, the game gets harder. Careful players could feel their way through each level of challenge, or, if you’re more reckless like me, you could barrel through each portal as fast as possible, dying unceremoniously before the sixty seconds runs out.
At first the game only lets you level up so far. Eventually it lets you skip to level five through the options menu, allowing you to level up well beyond that. All the while, you’re unlocking new power-ups to shoot more bullets, acquire missiles, turn invincible for a short period, and slow down time.
The difference between the first run of SSSP and a run a couple hours later is staggering. Suddenly the screen is filled with power-ups, time is slowing down, and some enemies are invincible. The need to unlock all of these advancements linearly could be seen as a pain, but it allows a player just starting out to learn all the mechanics at a reasonable pace. The hyperactive, absurd game they eventually reach wouldn’t be nearly as fun without that gentle ramp.
It seems to me that SSSP comes from someone who really enjoys twin-stick shooters like Geometry Wars, got too good at them, and wanted something that continued to be bite-size no matter how good they got. It provides a really good sense of “one-more-game” syndrome. Regardless, SSSP does eventually offer an infinite option, where extra time is a power-up you can collect. No matter how good you are, there’s always a running clock.
Still, it was usually death that got the best of me, especially when all the mechanics were piled onto each other and I was left racing through a fever dream of death. I could slow down time to extend my sixty second window, become invincible through the mass of power-ups in the environment, yet I was always swirling around a pool of potential death. Sometimes I’d die in quick succession, hitting the retry button as fast as possible and likely playing four or five games in sixty seconds, rather than one. The game restarts so quickly that there’s little reason to stop playing.
After a few hours I did eventually have my fill of Sixty Second Shooter Prime. I played Geometry Wars for months, but while I enjoy and recommend SSSP, I don’t think I’ll have the same relationship with it. Rough edges, like a lame starting weapon that I could never escape and a glitch where enemies would occasionally spawn directly on top of me left me wishing for that Geometry Wars polish. Still, If something that only provides an evening or two of fun is still worthwhile to you, then I wholeheartedly recommend it. If your Xbox One is collecting dust then I recommend it doubly so.
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