Platform: Xbox One (XBLA, £3.99)
Developer: Happion Labs
I bet that Happion Labs are already sick and and tired of the comparison, but when a game looks like Geometry Wars, swims like Geometry Wars and quacks like Geometry Wars, then it's probably a duck. I mean, Geometry Wars.
However, Sixty Second Shooter Prime is faster, significantly cheaper and much more aggressive than its inspiration, having honed a truly manic playstyle from its roots as a humble Chrome app through the PlayStation Vita. As the name suggests, you've got sixty seconds to kick as much posterior as possible, securing a high score by tactically advancing through levels, perfectly deploying powerups, exploiting a slow-motion chain mechanic and dying an awful lot in the process.
You're not just surviving: you're packing as much neon death as possible into one mad minute.
We don't need to dwell on the basics. You = ship. Left stick moves. Right stick shoots. Rectangular arenas full of polygonal baddies. Blasty fun go now shooty yeah.
A deeper explanation of the basic premise would be a waste of column space and your precious time, since you'll have likely played any number of similar games before. Suffice to say that the handling is slippery and twitchy, enemies attack in large numbers from scattering cubic clusters to aggressive hunter-seekers and spiral-shaped tanks, and you've got one minute to cause as much carnage as you possibly can.
Which is where Sixty Second Shooter Prime slowly starts to show its teeth, whether played in 'original 60' mode or an infinite time-extending panic gametype.
I say 'slowly' because a nifty unlock system reveals new gameplay elements and powerups as you play, a long tutorial brilliantly disguised as progression. Collecting 'spirals' permanently unlocks new levels accessible by portals, which bumps up the difficulty of the stage and introduces dangerous new enemies. The challenge increases sharply, as does the scoring potential. As such you'll have to choose whether to pootle around on a lower level or make a beeline for the portals as they appear over the course of your 60-second run, trading safety for the potential rewards.
These new enemies add extra dimensions to the gameplay, whether phasing out of existence and immune to all but explosive damage or releasing hordes of extra foes upon death. Thankfully you'll also unlock new randomly-spawning powerups to deal with them, such as powerful radial mines, temporary slow-motion, smart bombs, firepower upgrades and score multiplier bonuses.
Powerful yet limited, they provide yet another deceptively tough decision to make as leaving them in situ lets you access them when needed down the line. A mine or invulnerability ramshield could be used immediately to mop up a few stragglers, but if you wait, perhaps you'll find yourself with more targets and scoring potential. It's another surprisingly tactical layer that makes Sixty Second Shooter Prime even more hectic.
A couple of neat extra gameplay mechanics add extra flavour. Kills can be chained together into reactions that boost your score and confer a temporary state of slow-motion, which can be continually extended with well-timed kills and portal use. You'll dance through enemy formations and blast them apart, enjoying the frankly silly amount of visual feedback as you do so, rewarded for surviving a full sixty seconds with a 'death blossom' that annihilates every remaining enemy in a vector orgy of destruction. Like the best shooters, experience brings greater score yields and higher leaderboard placement as you come to understand Happion's more unique mechanics.
However, leaderboard runs (and some generous achievements) will become your sole reasons for sticking around after an hour or so. Once you've unlocked everything -- remember, the unlocks are effectively a tutorial, not a fully fleshed-out progression system -- you've only got two slightly different game modes and bragging rights to shoot for. No pun intended.
This is absolutely fine for diehard genre fans and appropriate for the price point, but considering Jamie Fristrom and co. were responsible for the likes of Schizoid (a brilliant XBLA underdog that felt like Ikaruga re-imagined as a cooperative puzzler), there's no denying that Sixty Second Shooter Prime feels decidedly unimaginative and backward.
And I'm not convinced that it feels particularly 'Prime,' if I'm honest. The visuals are a real bugbear, since regardless of what vaguely hideous colour table you opt for, projectiles and the muted ship model can easily become lost in background noise, leading to a few aggravating deaths where you literally couldn't see what hit you. Only two music tracks are provided, neither of which are noteworthy, and in all honesty the presentation lacks 'wow' factor. Extra flair and content wouldn't have gone amiss; from the basic fonts to the amateurish splash screen that wouldn't feel out of place in an Xbox Live Indie title, it feels a little cheap in some of the wrong ways.
Thankfully Sixty Second Shooter Prime also cheap in the best way possible. £3.99 is not going to break the bank by any means, but it will grant you plenty of addictive, maddening, hectic and retina-shredding minutes of mayhem. Xbox One SHMUP fans should make a beeline for it, though perhaps temper your expectations before taking the plunge.
- Hectic slippery action on the cheap
- Portals and powerups add extra hectic decisions to make
- Addictive, nails 'just one more go' factor with instant iteration time
- Quickly becomes repetitive beyond score attack
- Visuals are too cluttered and messy
- Lack of music tracks and visualisations
- A little derivative and rough around the edges
The Short Version: An intense, aggressive and addictive twinstick shooter. Like fast food, it's tasty, cheap and somewhat recycled, though a deceptive layer of on-the-fly tactics elevates Sixty Second Shooter Prime above its generic genre trappings.