You play as Ron Mayhem, whose beloved pet “Puffy” (yes, it’s a puffer fish) has fallen, quite literally, into enemy hands. You must set out to save him, and collect as much loot as you can in the process. That should tell you everything you need to know about the tone of Horde of Plenty.
To clarify, Horde of Plenty on Xbox One provides a short comic strip which reveals just how Puffy was lost, and if you so wish you can read all about his disappearance by checking out the story from the main menu. In addition to the usual settings and credits options, there’s also some game guidance via a help menu, which explains the controls and briefly how things work. Chances are though, at least if you’re anything like me, you’ll just want to jump straight in.
The humble twin-stick shooter has been done umpteen times before, and Horde of Plenty carries all of the typical hallmarks of the genre. What feels a little different to the norm is that Ron Mayhem and the numerous nasties trying to take him down are rendered in fully fleshed-out 3D, giving them a proper dose of character. This style reminds me as some kind of bonus level from a platforming game, as opposed to a vertically scrolling shooter. It’s a bit wacky, and immense fun – hard not to like.
Despite this, it’s very much business as usual. You use the left thumbstick to move around, and the other to direct your fire – standard twin-stick fare. Enemies will drop health, and you’ll be able to power up your weapons as you battle through each level. Different enemies are able to withstand varying amounts of firepower though, meaning things will often get very crowded, and you’ll have to prioritise who to take down first.
There are plenty of coins to collect in Horde of Plenty which boost your score, and you’ll often get ambushed when attempting to wander off the beaten track to collect other loot. Every so often though you’ll enter a “kill zone”, where you’ll need to defeat a certain number of enemies, or survive for a set period of time, before you can continue.
Throughout the levels you’ll see circular blue portals which are your ticket to freedom. However, if you decide to press on past them, things will get even more intense until you arrive at the next exit. The incentive to play on and increase your high score often plays second fiddle to making a swift exit, and avoiding a very likely death.
Even on the normal difficulty, Horde of Plenty is pretty challenging in an “old school” way. It’s constant, frantic action is unforgiving and it never quite feels like your gun is powerful enough. This means it’s pretty much impossible to get on top of the situation and earn a little breather, making the game a real slog to get through. Some sort of bomb to clear an area of enemies and regather yourself would have been a nice addition – or maybe a temporary shield to flesh out the gameplay a little. In fact, there is almost no variation in weapons at all – instead just a string of upgrades roll out for your bog standard laser blaster, of which the improvement in power is barely noticeable and very difficult to keep hold of.
If you lose all your lives you’ll be taken right back to the beginning of Horde of Plenty, to start over afresh. In fact, you’ll have to battle through 14 levels to get Puffy back, but they are all fairly similar with only very slight cosmetic differences. Thankfully there are five difficulties to play on, starting with “easy” and increasing all the way up to “wicked”. The harder the difficulty, the more points you’ll earn, and the bigger a challenge will come your way.
My main issue with Horde of Plenty is how quickly it’s all over, because what’s on offer here is a very simple example of the twin-stick shooting experience. If you choose to exit each level at the earliest opportunity, you’ll blast through it in no time at all. Sure, you could plough on to see the most of what each level has to offer, but you’ve seen pretty much everything the game has up its sleeve in the first few minutes, so there’s very little incentive to push your skills further. Add to this how difficult things can get unless you tone down the overall challenge, and you won’t want to take the risk. However, it has to be said, the game runs and controls smoothly throughout, which is good, and you’ll be especially grateful for that when the action gets really frantic.
Further to all that, there are online leaderboards for the competitive players out there, which may get some players chasing high scores, but otherwise there’s no additional online functionality. There’s no local multiplayer either, just a solo campaign. For £12.49, what’s on offer feels rather on the meagre side.
If you can hack it, Horde of Plenty on Xbox One packs a challenging punch which will scratch an itch for some. However, it’s a simple experience that doesn’t really manage to deliver enough bang for your buck.