In 1980, Eugene Jarvis unleashed Defender on arcades. Taking a few pointers from Asteroids and Space Invaders, Jarvis’ game put players in control of a ship that could move forward and backwards across a horizontal plane, blasting aliens and mutants in a mad dash to rescue humans. The spirit of Defender lives on in Resogun, a 2.5D dual stick shooter created by Super Stardust HD studio, Housemarque. The game is effectively Defender on a sugar high as bright, vivid visual effects dot a circular play space filled with legions of dangerous enemies. A challenging shooter with old school roots, Resogun is fun in short bursts. It doesn’t quite offer a glimpse of the “next-gen” future but it sure is pretty to watch.
Settling into Resogun doesn’t take much time. In a given stage, the player guides their chosen craft in orbit around a crumbling, dystopian settlement blasting alien ships out of the sky. The primary goal in each stage is to “save the last humans,” a command the GlaDOS-style narrator shrieks from the television and Dualshock 4's speaker. Freeing humans requires listening for an audible cue announcing the presence of the Keepers, a grouping of enemy ships that glow green. Destroying a Keeper group will unlock a random cell in the level, allowing the green humanoid to roam free. A human is considered “rescued” by whisking them away to a teleport before a special alien ship has the chance to kill them. You’ll continue this process until the end of the stage (progress is indicated by a glowing blue bar at the bottom of the screen). Before finishing the level, you’ll go head to head with the end stage boss, massive ships with obligatory glowing weak spots that require some pretty nimble thumb work and sharp reflexes to take down. When the boss is defeated, you’ll advance to the next stage and do it all over again.
Even though the game’s progression falls within the “Wash, Rinse and Repeat” style of antiquated arcade design, it is hardly boring. Each level holds the promise of new enemy types and aggressive behavior that can be extraordinarily devious, turning the game into a light bullet hell shooter as shot patterns grow complex and harrowing. To combat the threat of being overwhelmed by enemy forces, your ship is equipped with two special secondary weapons: a screen clearing nova bomb and a supercharged attack called Overdrive. These attacks are limited, though they can be replenished by saving humans and earning score multipliers. I think? The game can be a little coy. It really helps to read up on how to play the game before jumping into the action.
Resogun is fun, but it lacks the spark needed to turn it into an addicting time sink. I was somewhat concerned with how easily the game made me feel dizzy. With so many bright, flashing voxels and explosions occurring on screen at once while speeding around in a circle, dodging bullets and enemy fighters, its no wonder I felt a little woozy. This is where the Vita’s Remote Play functionality proved to be useful. With the action confined to a much smaller screen, the game was considerably more gentle on my old eyes. The game still managed to look really good on the Vita and there was no discernable lag. Remote Play does have shortcomings, however. Specifically, the Vita is missing two shoulder buttons, both of which are needed to deploy nova bombs and activate overdrive. At the start of the remote session, the screen flashed a glowing image of the Vita’s back touch pad of the Vita and to be honest, I had difficulty interpreting the display at first. The rear touch pad functions as the L2/R2 shoulder buttons - a good idea although I prefer going through the motion of pushing in a physical button. Speaking directly to controls, Resogun isn’t a complicated game, making the Remote Play experience a solid one.
Resogun is great for spontaneous, quick play. Anything longer than that starts to give me a headache. Outside of my own physical shortcomings, I don’t see the game having a lot of staying power because, honestly, there isn’t much to this re-imagining of a 33 year old arcade game. It does have some longevity, with numerous ships to unlock (each with their own stats), higher difficulty modes and the thrill of taking on the leaderboards. Scores from players around the world are displayed for each level so if you’re feeling the competitive spirit there are plenty of people to duke it out with. I’m not the kind of score hound the game appeals to, making Resogun a game I would come back to during game installs or show off the console to a friend. If you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, the price can’t be beat so be sure to redeem the 30 day voucher that came with the console.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.