What works so well about Resogun is that it doesn’t hold anything back. It doesn’t care if you think it’s just like Defender (which it is), it doesn’t care that levels end with a display of technical prowess and showmanship (so many voxels), and it definitely doesn’t care that it just gave you a bomb half a second after you really could have used one (that seems a lot like you’re fault). It just cares that you’re doing your damnedest to save the last humans.
Resogun is the latest from Finnish developer Housemarque, a studio you may remember from Super Stardust HD. Nary a year into Sony’s last console launch with the PlayStation 3, Housemarque made quite the splash with the old school Asteroids/Robotron mashup, going from developing for N-Gage and Gizmondo to making Dead Nation and Outland. They seem to have found their niche as they continue the trend of success with another retro-design space shooter.
In it, you play as one of several space fighter ships, scrolling left and right as you attempt to rescue the last humans from the grasps of the Sentients. The structure is most obviously inspired by Defender, but the twist is that the humans are locked up and have to be freed by defeating green glowing enemies called Keepers. Once you do that, you have to go track them down before they’re killed or abducted.
It’s a fantastic wrinkle to a framework we’re all familiar with for many reasons, namely because it all coincides with a bullet hell slant. There are a lot—like a lot—of enemies coming at you, some of which fire bullets while others move insanely fast unless you bust them up with a few shots and these really annoying ones that set up laser barriers that you have to destroy before you can pass.
So in the middle of simply trying to survive, you have to also pay attention to when the speaker in your controller calls out that Keepers are coming because if you don’t track them down and kill them, you lose that human. You can see a green orb fly out of their alien corpses to the free human, or you can follow the arrow coming out of your ship. And if you miss both of those cues, you can look at the counter (there are 10 humans per level) to see the status of each hostage: dead, alive, freed, dead from failure to rescue, rescued, dead from dying, etc.
If that sounds like a lot of information, that’s because it is. You also have to keep tabs on whether or not your overdrive is powered up (necessary for finishing the harder difficulties as it is insanely powerful, slightly freezing time and firing a giant Fuck You laser) and how many bombs you have left and if you have any shields left and and and.
And that’s part of the beauty of Resogun. It really doesn’t hold anything back, but it does it fairly. It gives you all the information you could ever need at any point such as how many lives you have left or if you just earned a bomb or where a human is. It’s up to you to keep track of it all or check on it at your own risk because hey, guess what, there are more bad guys coming your way.
It never feels overwhelming, though. It feels precisely as tense as it needs to be without forcing you to rip a controller in half after every death. Much like any bullet hell game, there’s always a way out. It’s just up to you to have the dexterity and reflexes and awareness to know where that exit is. Whether it’s a bomb or a boost or just deft maneuvering, it’s up to you to know what to do and when and where.
Part of that is the level design. They vary in content, but the overall structure is always the same, which is a cylindrical 2D plane. At any given moment, you can glance off into the background to see what is coming around the endless bend. It lends the game a very gladiatorial feel, being locked up in a pit with these heathens. You’re made to lose but you’re determined to come out on top.
This has to be one of the most empowering games I’ve ever played. One hit and you’re dead, but your mobility, your powers, and your foresight all enable you to be better than these droves of enemies. In any given moment, you are tracking and modeling in your mind at least half a dozen of possible outcomes. They’re closing in, you’re out of bombs, and you don’t have overdrive.
Your only hope is to boost free, grab the human, throw him into the goal, and slug it out in the open. Just like Resogun, you have to be relentless. It’s taxing and calming and punishing and rewarding all at the same time. This is a game that you should most definitely play, and given that it’s a PlayStation 4 exclusive free with PlayStation Plus and all new consoles come with 30 free days of Plus, you have no excuse to waste your entire night playing Resogun.
+ Looks gorgeous and sounds amazing
+ Makes the speaker in the controller a great idea instead of a dumb addition
+ An unbelievably well-crafted blend of familiar designs into something new and exciting
+ Nothing has been as rewarding this year as throwing a human into a goal and boosting away to rescue another
Final Score: 9 out of 10
Game Review: Resogun
Release: November 15, 2013
Genre: Side-scrolling shoot ’em up
Available Platforms: PlayStation 4
Players: single-player offline, two players online