Simplicity is everything with Polychromatic.
A twin stick arcade shooter, you control a small block of a ship, intent on dishing out damage to all those who come within your vicinity. There is one sole aim in Polychromatic – to earn the highest score possible and land a place higher than any friend or foe on the worldwide leaderboards.
It takes the joy that was first witnessed with the original Geometry Wars, stuffing additional game modes to where the sun don’t shine and instead plumping for colourful visuals in order to get it selling to the masses.
Brushfire games, a small team of indie developers have decided that merging classic designs with modern aesthetics is quite possibly the best way to go when trying to go up against the might of Geometry Wars 3 in the twin stick arcade shooter market. And for a while at least, they’ve got it pretty much spot on as Polychromatic is initially a delightful little title.
With a beautiful user interface – seriously whoever decided to put the score slap bang in the middle of the screen as the action takes place over it is an absolute genius – and a crazy good soundtrack bellowing out beneath the twin stick shooting madness, Polychromatic brings gloriously smooth, but ultimately supremely fast and fluid ship movement. As is the way with many twin stick arena based shooters, there are colourful explosions aplenty and not a single hint of lag or stutter in sight as your little square ship dishes out the damage to the onslaught.
The most simple control system known to man; move, shoot, dash and blast gives you as good a chance as any to fight your way past the bright and breezy enemy ships as they come at you in various patterns of attack; some fast, some slow, some individually and some in packs. With the standard right stick weapon more than capable of destroying the vast majority, get into a tight squeeze and you’ll be needing to utilise both your multi-bullet blast or quick swift dash moves in order to reach a bit of safety. The more enemies you kill, the more that will reappear as the waves, difficulty and quantity of opponents increases.
There are three modes in all and each one does exactly what it says on the tin. ‘Endless’ gives you three lives, three blasts and three dashes, urging you to earn the highest score possible before those lives run out. With additional lives, blasts and dashes earnt depending on how many waves you battle through, the endless mode gives the very best chance to earn those super high scores that us mere mortals can only dream about.
‘Timed’ mode throws you into the action with infinite lives, but focuses very intently on the huge countdown timer ticking away in the centre of your screen. Complete a wave and your time will increase. Die, and you’ll be up against it as the clock ticks down to zero.
Finally ‘One-Life’ unsurprisingly drops you in with only one life in place. It’s pretty much for the real hardcore Polychromatic players and should only be attempted once you get a hang of exactly what is needed to become a success. Don’t expect your sessions with One-Life to last too long as the battle may just be over within a matter of seconds.
And that’s about it for Polychromatic. Aside from the three games modes in place, there is absolutely nothing to aim for except for those hell bent on increasing their Gamerscore tally. Some local multiplayer would have been great, some online multiplayer would have been even more lovely, but I understand the issues small development studios have to face and perhaps these are only options for future Brushfire Games titles. Perhaps a choice of arena shapes aside from the standard circular area would ensure that there is something more to go for and occasionally more of a challenge. As it is though, it’s far too easy to sit at the bottom of the sphere, mopping up the points and waves by just focusing your attacks on those in front of you. With nothing able to appear behind you, and very little spawning from the edges of the circle, you may not be able to clock up massive scores, but it’s most definitely the easy way out for some.
After half an hour or so of playing through each of the three game modes on offer, Polychromatic ultimately comes up a bit short. Admittedly, once the full leaderboards are in full flow and numerous friends have stumped up the measly amount of cash needed to get the Xbox One download rolling, then there may be something more to continue to tempt me back to Polychromatic. But if you have no friends, or at least no friends who wish to open their wallets, then for all the colour and explosions in the world, nothing is going to make you want to pick up the meagre offering that Polychromatic brings over its genre rivals. You could of course just battle on through, testing yourself against the best that Brushfire have to offer, but I’m at a loss as to why anyone would ultimately choose Polychromatic over the unbelievably good Geo Wars 3.
Simplicity is everything. But in some cases, we need just that little bit more than some brilliantly polished visuals.