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Thursday, 8 February 2018

Review: Aperion Cyberstorm

Review: Aperion Cyberstorm

5-player bullet-hell dungeon-crawling spaceship-flying action anyone?

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Aperion Cyberstorm
aPrioriDigital | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1-5 Players (Local Only)
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 8th February 2018

Developers Commentary by: Matt Jones - aPrioriDigital

* Review Code Provided by: aPrioriDigital *

Nintendo Play is joined by Matt Jones, Lead Programmer and co-founder at aPrioriDigital, for the included Developers Commentary.

Another twin-stick shooter enters the ring with aPrioriDigital’s Aperion Cyberstorm, out today priced at £10.99. Will the lure of 5 way local multiplayer have you adding this to your rotation on your next games night?

Aperion Cyberstorm is a handcrafted, room-by-room twin-stick-shooter, mixing up a story driven space ship styled rendition of the 90’s classic Super Smash TV with a substantial character progression and weapons upgrade system.

Developers Commentary
Matt: Geometry Wars, Towerfall and various N64 Multiplayer games all helped inspired us from the love of couch-coop/versus games as we all grew up die-hard N64 fans. The Campaign exploration was inspired by 2D Metroid/Castlevania style progression, and coupled with bullet hell/shoot-em-up action from games like Super Stardust, DoDonPachi and Mushihimesama was something we hadn't seen done before. A bullet hell versus-shooter also stood out to us as something that had the potential to be very enjoyable, if hectic, experience that we could see players getting invested in and cause rivalries between competitive minded friends.

With so many room-by-room bullet-hell style twin-stick dungeon crawlers currently on the Switch it’s easy to see that Aperion’s biggest draw is its support for 5 player local-multiplayer, both in cooperative and versus modes, separating itself from its rivals on the indie strewn battlefield by allowing you to bring a gaggle of friends along for the ride. Good couch co-op is hard to come by nowadays and with many developers outsourcing the multiplayer portion of their titles to an online-only affair, the opportunity to sit on a sofa and tackle a hearty campaign or have a fun party filled competitive session with this type of game is worth its weight in gold, even more so if you can do it with 4 other people!

Aperion Cyberstorm Screenshot 1

The game smartly solves the issue of so many players on screen locally, avoiding splitting the screen, which would obviously prove confusing with so many projectiles whizzing around, while also refraining from kettling all 5 players into one tiny viewport, forbidding them from leaving the screen. Instead, it chooses to adaptively adjust the screens zoom depending on how far away the players are from each other. Although It does become increasingly hard to dodge and accurately fire projectiles at maximum zoom, it is still the best way to handle so much on screen at the same time. The game also features the ability to play with either a full controller or a split joy con, emulating classic twin-stick eight-way firing

Developers Commentary
Matt: The screen zoom feature was implemented at the same time as multiple players (way back at beginning of project) to focus the camera on the action whilst also allowing players to have good visibility around them. (Being hit by an enemy/bullet coming from off screen and loosing score multiplier was not very satisfying). We found Making the camera dynamic and zooming in half as fast as it zooms out was the Goldilocks zone of responsiveness without being nauseating.

The game features 3 main gameplay modes; Campaign, Versus and Onslaught, all of which can be played with up to 5 players. The game contains a perpetual in-game profile for each payer, including your (arcade style) 3 letter initials, your current level/rank, the power of your secondary weapons and the all of the ships that you have collected so far. There is the option for several of these profiles per Switch User ID, allowing for you to have a consistent ship with your specific unique loadout whenever you play.

The Campaign sees our space pilot protagonist, Kate, attempting to evacuate her crumbling home planet with her two friends in tow. While traveling through a disused vault Kate is trapped, left alone to figure out how to escape from the vault and leave the planet, though in the process ends up on the trail of an intergalactic conspiracy.

The games story is told through a series of illustrated text boxes. These facial illustrations look slightly out of place as they are not on par, or of the quality of, the games general aesthetic. They also annoyingly hold up the games progress until they have been read an accepted, though due to the games narrative being fairly complex, and lacking any voice acting, it is best to pay attention to all of these if you want to follow the story in its entirety.

Developers Commentary
Matt: Whilst this would have been a good thing to have, I don't think that voice acting was ever seriously considered, bar using a vocaloid to read the text which wasn't implemented. Due to the multiple rewrites of the main Campaign story over the course of development this was out of our scope on the time/cost side of things.

Aperion Cyberstorm Screenshot 2

The main gameplay loop is a simple one, enter a room, defeat all of the enemies, and move on. Destroying enemies, or shooting at crystals littered around the game world will provide you with the currency required to upgrade your secondary weapons, with more weapons being found as the campaign progresses, allowing you to tailor your weaponry to your play style.

Each of the games twelve ships contain different ratios of the four stats found on each ship: damage, health, speed and secondary fire recharge rates. Most of the ships are locked, hidden around the game's levels, but none are particularly hard to find.

Upon completing a section of a level you are given a lettered ranking depending on the speed in which you cleared the level, the number of deaths and the highest combo achieved. Each of the over 200 rooms in the game has been hand designed so enemy attack patterns can be learned and practiced in an attempt to increase your speed and keep your multiplier high to achieve that S+ rank, but with no online Leaderboards bragging rights are sadly limited to all those within shouting distance.

Developers Commentary
Matt: Whilst we can't go into any specifics, the online requirements for the WiiU version were a layer of complexity/security/vulnerability that we didn't end up including which was carried forward when porting to Switch/Steam version. Providing Aperion finds it's feet on release we would love to include leaderboards functionality in a future update, but at present the Switch screen-shot sharing feature is the main way for players to brag about their scores.

Each level includes a map, highlighting which room you are currently in, as well as those in your vicinity. The implementation feels fairly redundant however as your progress through each stage is fairly linear, with the player’s location only really serving as a way to identify which direction you should be exiting the room from once it is clear. There is the odd occasion time where the game will give you an option of two rooms but the game quickly run you in a small circle and put you back on the linear path again, as such there is no branching pathways or sense of exploration when completing each stage each stage, which sadly hampers replayability of each level somewhat.

Developers Commentary
Matt: Initially the world was much more open and free to explore, but due to score farming exploits and score/time-balancing multiple branches we ended up going with a more linear approach that we could better polish, and retained a couple of small branches for hidden items/extra gems, as well as alternative battle rooms that appear in the later Campaign chapters.

Aperion Cyberstorm Screenshot 3

Aperion’s versus mode has received a whole lot of love and attention and it’s apparent that aPrioriDigital want you to spend a lot of time blasting away at your friends. With nine different game types in both teamed and free-for-all, as well as customisations for each game type there’s plenty to try out. Versus also allows for AI bots so even when you’re down a man or two you can always keep the numbers up.

The game’s final mode, Onslaught, has you defeating wave after wave of ever increasingly difficult enemies. After 5 waves you are given a star, once 5 waves are completed you progress to the next map. With two maps unlocked initially and another 14 to unlock (each requiring a specific amount of stars to do so), Onslaught is not remotely short of content.

While a solid single player experience in its own right, Aperion Cyberstorm shines brighter the more friends you manage to get involved. So go out, make some friends, and then invite them round for a gaming session to soak up the full experience of everything Aperion Cyberstorm has to offer.

Many thanks to Matt for his discussion during this review.


+ Amazing co-op and versus fun
+ Substantial Campaign
+ Lots of customization/loadout options.

- Good music but quite repetitive
- Narrative assets lacking polish

Verdict: Nearly There – Highly Recommended
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