In the early 2000s it looked like the twin-stick shooter might well be on the way out. Then, in 2003 a minigame in Project Gotham Racing 2 changed everything. Geometry Wars was born and became so popular that it eventually got its own standalone release with a remastered version known as Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on the Xbox 360 in 2005. This game essentially revitalized the genre and gave other developers and publishers the confidence to create further twin-stick shooters with the knowledge that there is a market for such titles, especially considering the success of its various sequels.
This leaves new game Tachyon Project in something of a quandary. Geometry Wars has established several gameplay mechanics and elements and so Spanish developer Eclipse Games is likely to want to take inspiration from the game but also be distinctive enough to not simply be a clone. This will be the most important aspect of the review, whether Tachyon Project is a unique experience that is worthy of buying.
From the start, the influence of Geometry Wars can be seen almost immediately. You control a spaceship that must destroy enemies to advance to the next level. At first impression you could be forgiven for thinking that this was just another clone, especially when many of the enemies, such as the snake or the crawlers, are so reminiscent of those found in other games.
That is where the similarities end though, as the game soon introduces its various distinctive gameplay mechanics and features that set it apart from other titles in the genre. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Tachyon Project moves away from the time honored tradition of killing you immediately when you are hit by an enemy. Instead, you have a health timer that is constantly ticking down unless you are killing enemies. Taking a hit drastically reduces this timer but won’t kill you unless it is already fairly low. This adds new strategic aspects not present in other games as you might sometimes risk taking a hit from an enemy to escape from a tricky situation.
Scoring works in much the way you would expect however. Destroying enemies increases your score multiplier while collecting the particles they leave behind once dead will give you points. Although if you are damaged you lose your multiplier instantly, adding another layer of thinking to deciding whether you should avoid damage at all costs or accept an enemy attack for a strategic advantage.
Another change is to the way that you can change your weaponry and abilities. Often in twin-stick shooters, weapons will change in-game as you reach certain points or pick up powerups. That is not the case here though. Rather, before every level the player gets the chance to customize their ship before entering into the fray. Before you progress too far, choices are limited to a few different weapon types such as a shotgun or missiles or perhaps more health. Later on you get a greater variety in how you can personalize your ship, with defense drones, mines, freezing bombs and extra health just a taste of the available options. All of this customization means you can choose the way you want to play the game and enjoy the experience all the more for it.
The last major alteration to the twin-stick formula is the addition of stealth levels. These do away with several gameplay mechanics and essentially make you invisible to enemies unless you shoot or run into an enemy. This provides something of a change in pace and thinking , requiring the player to evaluate how they will go about clearing a level in a more methodical way than they might otherwise do. It’s an interesting new take and the idea certainly gives Tachyon Project something to make it stand out from the crowd.
The game also introduces something that most other titles in the genre don’t have, a story mode. While it isn’t very sophisticated, it helps to bridge the levels together effectively and provide a reason for why you are battling all of those pesky enemies. Cutscenes hark back to old-style arcade titles and contribute to the overall atmosphere of the game.
After you have completed the first couple of levels, the variety of enemies and unique qualities they each have really start to come into their own. Although many twin-stick shooters tend to stick to just a few enemies with set routines, Tachyon Project has a wide range of enemies that have challenging and surprising behaviors. Some mines send spikes flying out when you approach them while others might have front-ended shields or radars that make you visible to all enemies on stealth levels. It leaves you constantly having to take in what is on-screen and adjust the way you are playing accordingly, meaning you get very little time to relax.
In terms of the graphics and sound, Tachyon Project does enough to make sure that these aspects match up to the rest of the game. The soundtrack is not the best example in the industry but it complements the action on-screen well, with pulsing electronic tunes mixed with more relaxed soundtrack. Meanwhile, the visuals themselves are in-line with what you would expect from an indie title in that they aren’t the most advanced but are essentially a modern version of classic arcade games. There are also no major performance issues, with no noticeable frame rate drops or stuttering, important details for a game that requires quick reflexes.
There are some serious drawbacks with. For a start there is no online multiplayer option in a game that would be significantly improved with either co-operative play or some sort of versus mode. This limits the replayability of Tachyon Project severely, something that is stressed even more thanks to the relatively short story mode. There is a challenge mode, which consists of three different types, to extend gameplay but unfortunately they are rather simple and revolve around getting the most kills in a set time. The developer could have come up with more interesting challenges that vary the basic elements of the game here to add more reasons to come back and play the game, meaning it is an opportunity missed.
These are relatively small gripes though. Overall, the game is a solid twin-stick shooter that will appear to longtime fans of the genre and those who are new to these types of titles. It’s is certainly not a must have title, though if you enjoy trying out some of the latest indie games on the Xbox One or want to try something other than Geometry Wars then you could do much worse than Tachyon Project.
Eclipse Games provided a copy of Tachyon Project for review purposes. The game is available to buy right now on Xbox One for $9.99.