by Chris Brown
Schizoid from Torpex Games is built to played with someone else. The gameplay practically demands it as one player controls a orange ship and the other player controls a blue ship. The object is simple, destroy your matching color adversaries by touching them or making them go boom. The control scheme is simple as well, it consists of the left stick for movement and an occasional button push for special bombs. Those are the only simple things about Schizoid. It is perhaps one of the most difficult games on the Xbox Live Arcade, and a reason why this deceptively simple game is a 2008 PAX 10 Finalist.
The levels of Schizoid has different methods players can use to get through, chief among them the ability to communicate with the other player and to watch each others back. For dedicated co-op players this will be a game teams will play again and again to sharpen their level readiness. The level maps offer up different challenges needing to navigate not only oncoming creatures bent on your destruction, but navigating through walls and other obstacles. One unintended obstacle the game has is it is sometimes hard to discern your ship from the attacking antagonists. We found that one added difficulty was the speed of the players’ ships compared to the speed of the advancing enemies. It is one additional obstacles players must plan for in attacking different levels. One other unintentional challenge to the game that in-room players may experience is the argument you find yourself in when your so-called partner fails to have your back. When players eventually run out of lives, if the jump back into the campaign they have to replay every level that they didn’t get a Gold rating in (meaning zero loss in life during a level). This creates further chances to either pass the earlier levels, or get bogged down in a level you just managed to luck your way through.
Now, Schizoid can be played with just one player in two different modes. One mode has the single player controlling one of the ships and the A.I. controlling the other ship. This mostly works, but in the more challenging levels, it’s easy to blame the A.I. for your mistakes. The other mode, dubbed the Uberschizoid mode, has the single player controlling BOTH ships. The left stick controlling one ship, the right stick controlling the other. This was a fun exercise in seeing how one’s brain operates under adverse conditions, but still a lot of fun. It’s a very, very hard game mode, but we imagine for players who manage to make it onto the leaderboards, they fully earn all bragging rights to their uber-abilities.
The visual style of Schizoid is visceral. It sometimes looks like a kind of pretty space hell which looks pretty in a High Definition setting. It doesn’t try to hard to make things look extra detailed, which does benefit the gameplay because the players eyes need during the game is a whole bunch of competing colors to muddy up who to watch out for.
The achievements are extremely difficult to obtain, keeping in form with the difficulty of the game itself. I think of this as a niche game for those players that have a firm commitment to partner up in one of the strongest co-op games around and love the thrill of hammering away diligently at each level. The pounding on of difficulties and obstacles without hardly any reward, whether as gamerscore or as level completion, makes for limited replayability for us. This game, for better or for worse, is an acquired taste for the most dedicated of gamers, and leaderboard braggarts.
Schizoid, from Torpex Games, is rated E for Everyone and is available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points.
Married Gamers Report Card: B-