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Thursday, 25 January 2018

Review: Tachyon Project

A Twin-stick arena shooter looking for a way to separate itself from the herd.

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Tachyon Project
Eclipse Games | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1-4 Players (Local Only)
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 25th January 2018

Developers Commentary by: Eduardo Chapresto - Eclipse Games

* Review Code Provided by: Eclipse Games *

Nintendo Play is joined by Eduardo Chapresto - Programmer and Founder of Eclipse Games, for the included Developers Commentary.

Considered to be less a straight port of a two year old release and more of a Definitive Edition, promising to address the issues that bothered players in the past, Tachyon Project is released today at £7.99. For those who haven’t had a chance to play this twin-stick shooter before, why should you now?

Twin-stick arena shooters... The genres is chock full of titles from as early as video gaming itself. Greats like Super Smash TV, Geometry Wars, JoyJoy, Echos and Crimson Land have all attempted to rise above the rest and leave their mark by bringing something new to the table; Tachyon Project is hoping to do the same.

Tachyon Project centres on Ada, a form of artificial intelligence, brought into life by two hackers with an unknown agenda. When the pair are violently raided Ada is left floating around the internet, causing her to set out on a journey to solve the mystery of what happened to her “parents”, hacking through firewalls and security protocols to attempt to gain the information required to piece together the puzzle. It’s certainly a novel story for a twin-stick arena shooter and is one that is told well, unfolding across beautifully drawn comic panels. Sadly these scenes are not voice acted but the general tone of the story comes across well enough.

Eduardo: Initially it was a matter of budget and lack of experience. We didn't have a big budget and never had requested voice acting. We still don't know how much would it cost to do the voice acting for the game and we're not sure we could afford it. For the Switch version, TBH, we didn't even think of it. We focused on the gameplay improvements, stuff we could do ourselves, and forgot about the voice acting altogether. I don't think we could afford it though. The game hasn't been very successful so far.

Being a classic twin-stick arena shooter, all action takes place between 4 enclosed walls, keeping the action tight and fast flowing. Each of the 10 levels in the games main campaign is split into several waves, with victory conditions ranging from killing a certain number or type of enemy to simply being able to survive for a predetermined amount of time. The game's controls are simple with each stick moving or firing, the L/R buttons fire whichever secondary weaponry you have chosen to bring with you on the mission. Unlike most of the genre, when you get hit by an enemy you don’t immediately die. Instead, each enemy deducts a certain amount of time from the clock, constantly ticking away at the top of the screen. Kill some enemies and gain a bit of time, take too long or get hit too many times and it’s game over, with the game allowing you to start back at the beginning of the current wave. True to the nature of the genre, killing an enemy increases your bonus multiplier with getting hit or letting too much time elapse causing it to reset.

Eduardo: It [the clock mechanic] was introduced very early in the game. It was one of our first points differentiating from other from other games. One of the premises of the game was to do a twin-stick shooter that was more accessible than others like Geometry Wars, and not having a one-hit-die mechanic was definitely the first thing to come to mind. Oh, and there's a 1-hit challenge, if you're into that sort of stuff ;)

Tachyon project is certainly not short of content for lovers of the genre, featuring a Story Mode, a Story Mode+, 10 unique challenge modes and online Leaderboards. The game also includes several customisation options for your ship, available to select before starting a mission missions. A selection of primary, secondary and passive buffs are unlocked as the game progresses and are a welcome addition, helping you easily adjust the game toward your individual play style. This menu is unfortunately initially hard to navigate, allowing you to cycle through locked weapons but refusing to let you back out of the menu until you have selected an item that isn’t locked.

Eduardo: For the Switch version this was probably the screen we changed the most in the menus. We tried to improve it but obviously we could've done a better job of it. Anyway, I could almost guarantee that you would find the old one way harder to navigate.

There are 30 different types of enemy AI and 4 bosses on offer with each behaving completely differently around the player. Stealth Seeker ships, for example, will not notice you until you fire, unless you are close to a Radar enemy, giving up your position and causing the enemy to make a B-line directly toward you. The enemy design is well thought through and often causing the player to take a pause from firing to ensure they have gained the best vantage point before hammering it home, a far cry from circling the edges of the screen constantly firing which is how many of the titles in this genre tend to play out.

Eduardo: Toni, the designer, tried to find lots of different options, patterns, and gimmicks for the enemies to keep players on their toes. And not only the enemies in isolation, but also the combination of enemies is very much well planned and designed. So, for instance, the Stealth Seeker won't follow you unless you shoot so, even in droves, they can be easily outmanouvered. But if you add radars or other type of enemies that seek you out and identify you, then things change: with radars you have to avoid certain areas changing the play area; with other enemies it may require the player to target them first to avoid being identified and attacked by everyone, or to run around the screen looking for a safe place while avoiding the enemies in that area. I think the combination of different mechanics from different enemies is one of the strong points of the game and since we have quite a few different enemies, we really have a lot of different combinations.

The game contains four player co-op across all modes with players being able to play with either full controllers or opting to play in split joy-con mode, with the 4 face buttons used as the fire buttons for the old school 8-way direction fire feeling. There are no optional ships to choose from, with simply the colour of exhaust trail from the of the ship being the only identifying factor. This is a shame as being able to quickly identify who you are in the madness would be a very helpful addition. All players also share the same clock and as such anyone getting hit reduces the time, expect to be shouting at your weakest player often.

Eduardo: It didn't occur to us! The first version of the game didn't support 4 player co-op in the Story Mode and thus we didn't give it so much thought. Also, the story may have had to change slightly to justify 4 ships... which we didn't do for the Switch and I think it's still ok. TBH, it would've been a good idea, but we just didn't think of it. I don't think anyone brought it up in the reviews for the other platforms either (again there the 4 player co-op only worked in the challenges so it was a much smaller part of the game).

True to Eclipse’s Definitive Edition word the graphics have seen an upgrade across the board compared to their original release, most notably in the Menus. The in-game graphics do a good job and giving depth perception to a game that takes place wholly on one plane, special effects such as particles are also kept to a respectable level with the lack of distraction helping the player better keep an eye on the madness that is usually taking place on screen.

Overall, Tachyon Project is an enjoyable game with a long shelf life for fans of the genre. Eclipse Games having taken the time to lovingly fix issues that have plagued the title in the past the effort have certainly paid off, delivering a crisp looking twin-stick shooter at a quality price.

Many thanks to Eduardo Chapresto his discussion during this review.


+ Varied Enemy AI
+ Perk system keeps things fresh
+ Arcade style replayability

- Confusing in Multiplayer
- No voice acting on cut-scenes

Verdict: Very Good Job - Recommended Buy

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