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Friday, 12 January 2018

Review: Energy Invasion

Energy Invasion

A budget gem or a low effort attempt at a Breakout clone?

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Energy Invasion
Sometimes You | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1 Player
Reviewed by - Curtis Chapman

Released at £2.69, Energy Invasion attempts to put a different spin on the usual Breakout clone. A solid title with an interesting premise hides behind a lack of polish and fine-tuning. Problems that, unfortunately, will probably see Energy Invasion fall into the slowly increasing pile of low effort titles creeping onto Nintendo’s eShop .

The first thing I was asked to develop when I was studying at University was an Arkanoid/Breakout clone. I developed the assets by taking pictures of clay models, created high score tables, included a level editor, featured an attract mode, the works! The whole thing took me the better part of a week. Not once during my week-long introduction to making video games did I think to myself “Well that’s that done, a week of hard work. Now I can sell this for real-world money!”. Unfortunately, it is something that appears to have crossed the mind of developer Sometimes You when they shipped Energy Invasion to multiple platforms.

Energy Invasion uses the same Paddle->Ball->Brick elements as the original. The ball bounces around the screen and a life is lost if the paddle doesn’t manage to keep the ball in play; the title drastically changes the flow, however, by having the main ball not break the bricks when it hits them.The player instead uses the right analogue stick to shoot tiny “missile balls” out of the main ball. These missiles move in the same way as the main ball but will disappear when either they hit a brick, damaging it, or when leaving the screen altogether. The player will not lose a life if these missiles are lost but the paddle will ricochet them in the same manner it does the main ball.

Most levels also feature enemies at the top of the screen, these enemies shoot red missile balls that also move and ricochet and will cause you to lose a life if they hit your paddle. With Power-Ups active, loads of player missiles on the screen and enemy missiles flying around, the whole game becomes a bit of a bullet hell; it’s surprisingly addictive.

Energy Invasion Screenshot 1

On initial boot up you are greeted with a simple menu. Alarm bells immediately ring when the menu selection boxes barely manage to contain the text inside them let alone, god forbid, attempt to justify it into the middle. Being the first point of call for the player, this screen should really have been prioritised, instead, it ends up looking like something cobbled together while working through an entry-level Unity SDK tutorial on YouTube.

The game features three distinct modes of play, Invasion mode, a campaign featuring 25 waves of ever-increasing difficulty. Linear mode, where rows of bricks travel downward toward the bottom of the screen; and Endless mode, which is apparently randomised Endless waves of varying difficulty. Each game mode features the same assets, power-ups and attack patterns. The games pause menu also features a difficulty select, with an easy mode disabling any enemy fire.

With no indication that the game features a twin-stick mechanic, the first five minutes of play was spent hammering the A button, only to find the ball firing diagonally downward. After almost giving up and committing to a purely negative review it became apparent that the second stick was also required, changing the game dynamic entirely for the better. In the game's defence, instructions are included in the "How to play" sections of the menu, though if you are going to fundamentally change how a game plays then it should be included as a tutorial on the first stage.

Energy Invasion Screenshot 2

The decision to bind the pause menu to both the + button (where it should be) and the B button (what?) really has to be one of the strangest design decisions made in this title. Losing a life in-game instinctively had me pressing the B button to skip the death/no ball animation, only to be brought to the pause menu, which in turn plays an animation in itself each time.

The game attempts that early arcade art style meets neon and particles, which unfortunately falls quite flat due to a lack of polish. It is a tried and tested design that, coupled with the games amazing music, would suit it perfectly if it was refined further. Use of particle effects overall could have been toned down slightly but all other graphical effects and filters employed when using certain power-ups are very well implemented.

The music, created by “Nick R 61”, is a nice mix of electronic and dub that, when played on loop, doesn’t ever get annoying. Chances are high though that you’ll have abandoned this title due to its lack of fine-tuning long before you’ve fully appreciated Nick’s work.

Energy Invasion Screenshot 3

There’s definitely a solid budget arcade hidden inside Energy Invasion but it looks like time was called on the project the moment the finish line was in sight. Taking the price into considering only slightly justifies a lack of polish seen, a little more depth and fine-tuning from the title, coupled with the fantastic electronic OST already in the game would make it very hard not to suggest picking this up off the eShop at £2.69. Sadly it falls short of receiving that recommendation.


+ Fantastic music by Nick R 61
+ Interesting main concept

- Poor Button Bindings
- Hidden instructions on the games main mechanic
- Very poor overall polish
- Short lived with an overall lack of content

Verdict: Low Effort - You may Cry

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