I don’t know what’s true any more. The recently released Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum has completely pulled the rug on me, making me believe that it genuinely was a lost NES game from the ‘80s. And now Game Type DX is here, purporting to be a re-release of an Xbox 360 game that the internet has no recollection of. What’s true any more? What is real, I tell you?
We hope that Game Type was indeed an Xbox 360 game, because the story behind it is just too good.
Cast your mind back to the old Xbox 360 dashboard, just after ‘blades’ were a thing. Microsoft couldn’t help themselves, changing the layout on an almost weekly basis, and that meant categories got shifted in and out and lost quite regularly. One of the biggest casualties of this hokey-cokey was the independent game store, which was often buried deep in the menus, far away from the full releases and Xbox Live Arcade.
It was into this maelstrom that Game Type appeared, and – considering the bile behind the press release – it didn’t do well. The anger over the injustice of this simmered away for years, and Mommy’s Best Games Ltd have redirected the fury by remastering the original in Game Type DX and launched it on modern consoles.
It leads to one of the most meta and hilarious intros to a game in modern memory. Boot up Game Type DX, and you’re taken back decades. The main menu is a parody of the Xbox 360 dashboard, and it’s filled with piss-takes of games, services and movies that – if you squinted – might have been screenshotted from 2003. We’d definitely watch Action Herozzz, and we’d play the hell out of Man Staring. Charlie Brooker would have been proud of some of these.
Deep in the menus is Game Type DX, which is a bold move. Burying your game four screens deep is asking for trouble, but you get the sense that Mommy’s Best Games stopped caring about a decade ago. They’re coming out fighting.
You almost forget that there’s a game to review. Game Type DX, when you strip away the nostalgia and satire is actually quite a conventional little horizontal shooter. Sure, you are playing as ‘Hoodie Girl’, a parkouring sk8ter girl who flies through the air, but, sprite aside, she’s just a spaceship facing off against waves of enemies. Those waves of enemies, rather than being other spaceships, are the trappings of capitalism. They are ‘adverts’, and you’re spraying bullets at doughnuts, floppy disks, gravestones, cats and fritters among others.
The satire’s not as sharp as the intro screens. It’s a bit of a disappointment in that sense, if we’re being honest. We can make out the faint outline of social commentary, but it really is faint. We shot down gravestones with our own name on them, which might be some statement on mortality, but we couldn’t tell you why we were shooting padlocks, taxis or shrimp. We’d have loved Game Type DX to sharpen the knives and keep carving into Xbox, Microsoft, game development or any of its targets from its intro screens. A lot of the time, the sprites seem chosen randomly, but they’re not random enough to raise a smile or make you double-take.
Luckily the shooting’s pretty good. There are three modes available in Game Type DX, and they’re riffing on the same themes but with differing levels of randomness. Original is the carefully constructed campaign, playing out the same way every time. Parkour Remix! is all-new arrangements and a tougher difficulty level, while Surprise! was our undoubted favourite. It randomly layers its ‘loops’ of enemies onto each other, without a care for whether those loops synergise or even create an impassable wall of death. Then it pumps out some of the most outrageous power-ups you can think of (Max Guns in one, single power-up is great fun) and spams the screen with them. It’s deliciously chaotic.
In all of the modes, the structure is roughly the same. Waves of enemies appear, and those waves eventually create a loop. Reach the end of a loop, and the difficulty gets hiked, escalating sharply to become true bullet hell. You might find yourself on the fourth difficulty of American Football players, or the fifth difficulty of spinning oranges, as they reappear and make things increasingly difficult for you. On Original, bosses appear too, as hulking cats hide behind desks and try to put an end to you.
There’s nothing overly spectacular about the enemies and levels. They’re clearly running on an algorithm, rather than delivering varied, authored landscapes. You’ll have to keep your expectations low in this respect, and treat Game Type DX more like a roguelike, where you’re just aiming to beat your personal best.
But what moves Game Type DX more towards a recommendation is the arsenal of guns that you have at your disposal. The standard gun is fine, and gets ratcheted up by power-ups over the course of a run. You become almost untouchable at the top-end, as bullets spray out of you in a starfish pattern. But it’s X and RT that are the winners. Hold X and you unleash a channelled beam that obliterates everything, but also slows down any bullets that are caught in it. If you’re in a pickle, you can use this as both an attack and defence.
Then there’s RT, which is a time-stop. It gives you space to dance around the bullets and come out unscathed. Both the time stop and the channelled attack are limited, so you have to ration yourself a touch, but they add an extra dimension to something that was otherwise a bit flat.
A well-featured and criminally underpopulated highscore table greets you when you’ve finished. We landed at #88 on our first go, and we’re sure you can do much better. Perhaps Game Type DX hasn’t sold much more than the original, which is a sad thought indeed.
It all amounts to an irreverent, thin and short-lived shooter. Game Type DX’s best ideas are left in the game menus, which isn’t where we would have put them, and the fourth-wall breaking isn’t anywhere near as insightful or funny as it should have been.
It means Game Type DX is in the awkward position of being too unremarkable to stand out as a shooter, and too meek to stand out as a parody. It falls into the pit of being anonymous, which is the exact obscurity it aimed to avoid with the rerelease.
You can buy Game Type DX from the Xbox Store