Super Cyborg is an old school non-stop hardcore run’n’gun action game, developed and published by Arthur Games and Drageus Games; it’s a throwback to retro 2D platform shooter games, with great music composed by Darkman007. You’re an elite battle Cyborg who is sent to investigate a mysterious Island, inhabited by an alien species known as the ‘Xirxul life form’ and you need to stop them to save humanity. The game can be played in single player as well as two player co-op.
Before you begin your adventure, you get to choose between easy and normal. Then you get to design your Cyborg. You’re able to change the colours of its Armour and its gun, with a small number of colours to choose from; you can make it distinct enough that it can look different to other players. After that, you’re dropped off on an Island, you get a picture of the controls and then away you go.
The controls are simple – you move with the left thumbstick, you have a jump button, an automatic fire button and one charge shot button.
Now I chose to play on Easy mode as this not a genre of games that I play much of. When I say you’re thrown into the deep end I am not joking in the slightest. Straight from the off enemies are coming at you at a fast pace from the front, from the top and even below. It probably took me a good twenty minutes just to get my bearings. What didn’t help was that you only get three lives; you’ll need to sit back and learn the enemy patterns and the mechanics of knowing when to jump and fire. Just a tip, hold that automatic fire button and never let go.
If you couldn’t tell already, Super Cyborg is not interested in holding your hands, if you’re a newcomer to the genre you will need to learn to pick up the game fast and be persistent with it. I personally didn’t find this an issue, as it is a throwback title and a nod to that 8-bit era of arcade video games. What helps are the simple controls and fast load times. When you run out of lives you don’t have to sit behind a loading screen, which really helps keep the momentum going. However, die you will as there is some element of trial and error where you might need to sacrifice a life or two to know the best way to move forward.
As I mentioned earlier you only get three lives, so you can expect to see the Game Over sign appear on the top left screen often. The levels do not have any checkpoints and instead when you lose a life your Cyborg pops back for a few seconds, immune to enemy contact as you come back to life straight away. You can use that as an opportunity to move forward and get out of that tight spot.
This game is fast and can be a little frantic at times. Enemies come at you from left and right, while projectiles are being fired at you from above. Furthermore, there are foes that will fire projectiles that can be shot by your gun but which will in turn release another projectile that you have no choice but to avoid. There will be a few occasions where you can’t move forward as something is blocking your way and you have to shoot it down. But that still doesn’t give you any breathing space as enemies come from various different angles. What can make matters worse is you can see the spawn point from where your enemies are coming from, which you will need to shoot down to stop the wave after wave of aliens coming to kill you.
Luckily, Super Cyborg does offer some weapon upgrades and boosts that will sporadically appear as you move through the level. Some will appear in a flying crate that you need to shoot down, some will be in a container behind a revolving door within the environment you have to shoot down. Getting them may not be straight forward but it is worth your while as they will be full of boosts – rapid fire, laser beams, bullets that spread apart and more. On occasion the difference between defeating a boss and losing against one can depend on what weapon boost you get. Speaking of bosses…
There are some really challenging ones here and you can immediately tell you’re in for a ride when you see them appear on your screen. They are big, vicious looking, and all round maniacal, ranging from giant spiders and worms, to straight up something that could be from an Alien movie. Again, just how you progress through the level is all about learning patterns and knowing when to jump to evade shots, while giving yourself the opportunity to hit their weak spots. You also get sub-bosses; on some levels they can be avoided and on others they can be just as challenging if not even harder. This is where my first issue with the game comes in.
Now I can accept Super Cyborg not running with checkpoints as the levels are short and the challenge is all about getting through the level before you run out of lives. But after taking on a sub-boss which could very easily be the main boss fight, I would have liked for there to be a checkpoint from there. When you have just barely made it through the sub-boss, you only have a life or two and on occasion without an upgraded weapon. The thought of taking on that end boss can be very daunting and almost off putting. This again could just be a personal thing, but after you have mastered the level and know how to navigate through the level with relative ease, it does become a bit of a chore to get to that main boss.
Having said all that, the satisfaction of defeating the end level boss and getting to that next level is so so satisfying! My wife couldn’t help but laugh and smile at times as I would fist pump the air, punching my chest like I had just won some competition. This is a testament to Super Cyborg’s level design and mechanics – tight and fluid, and the animations are clean. You never feel like you die from a cheap death with only yourself to blame. Super Cyborg never feels unfair.
I also must give credit to the developers on the level design and how they have managed to keep the platforming varied with each level. Some stages will be a side scrolling platformer, others it’s about reaching to the top, and more take place from a top-down view. It’s a great way to mix up the combat and keep things from feeling stale but also keeping that challenging gameplay evolving. On top of that, the art and detail in each level is incredible. Every level is vastly different from the previous one, with some being bright and vibrant, while others are dark and dungeon like.
Two-player co-op should help things further, as does the competitive element; each level provides you a score based on your performance. In fact, my only other issue with Super Cyborg is a lack of storytelling – you’re basically just going from one level to the next, taking out aliens as you go. Thankfully the soundtrack does help keep moving you forward, bringing the classic sounds from ‘80s/90s era but giving it that fresh modern vibe to it too.
In conclusion, I really recommend Super Cyborg. It is very challenging but is highly addictive, mostly thanks to its simple tight controls, great level design and fast load times. Super Cyborg is one of those games that will draw you in, as you test yourself with one more try, again and again. The sense of accomplishment you receive from completing a stage certainly makes it worth it.
Super Cyborg can be downloaded from the Xbox Store