Particle Mace – What We Think:
Combining physics with arcade twitch games is not something we often see in the gaming world, but with Particle Mace, Andy Wallace shows the two elements can work together in compelling ways.
With the tagline “It is a game about not dying, but it is impossible not to die,” I was expecting some casual fun-for-a-while game. Sure, you will die a lot no matter how hard you try not to, but there is something else here, something deep and addictive, that has me coming back for more, even when I´m on an endless losing streak.
Particle Mace is played mostly as a classic space arcade game, where you fly around in a little spaceship destroying asteroids and other players, depending on the game mode. But instead of using your guns, you have a boulder attached to your ship that you swing around to destroy stuff around you.
The way this works is by good old physics; you need to plan your attacks and think of both the weight and your speed to hit the target in a pleasing way. This turned out to be rather hard in the beginning, with most of my hits coming from pure luck or because of my frenetic swinging.
Once I did get the hang of how it worked and learned to master the swinging somewhat, it was a pure joy making perfect swings and following them up with new ideas. I almost felt like a ballet dancer moving perfectly to the choreography while hefting my weight around.
While attacking plays a natural part of Particle Mace, it is also vital to defend and avoid the asteroids bouncing around. This added another layer to my beautiful dance once I became familiar with the controls.
Particle Mace can be played in many ways, both in terms of game modes and in what controls you can use. I was happily surprised at how well it worked to plug in an XBOX 360, Xbox One or Playstation 3 or 4 controller and just play. I often have to use third party programs to get these controllers working in most games.
Particle Mace comes loaded with 150 missions. Even if most of them are much more of the same, the small variations and difficult pacing make for some great ways to improve the swinging dance.
While there is also the possibility to play the game in co-op with up to three other friends, I found deathmatch to be the most enjoyable mode. Here, your skills will come to their true test: Not knowing how opponents will move and swing adds a new layer and demands that you rethink your tactics from what you learned in single player. Playing against friends will also give you enough laughter and cursing to last for a long time.
Visually, Particle Mace lets you focus completely on your ship and your surroundings. It does not have the best visuals on the market – the graphics and art are all very scaled down. Clear colors and an almost black background make it easy to distinguish what is what, letting you focus on making the necessary swings necessary. You will always know which ship is yours, which are the enemies and where the asteroids are, something that can be hard in other similar games where explosions and too much variation in color makes it all a mess.
The original score by Nathaniel Chambers also fits the game well, with a dry, minimalist pulsing dance-floor approach that feels up close and intimate, stuck in your throat, burning your eyes.
I entered Particle Mace with some skepticism, since the screenshots and movies really don’t do the game any justice. Particle Mace focuses everything on gameplay and the dance that comes with it. While the initial 30 minutes might not be that enjoyable – since you really need to focus on learning the controls and physics system – the remaining countless hours you can put into Particle Mace will be some of the best you have with an arcade twitch game, especially against other players.
Particle Mace is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Particle Mace below: