Review: Vortex Attack, an Old Fashioned Space Shoot-’em-Up

Vortex Attack, bonus round
Review: Vortex Attack, an Old Fashioned Space Shoot-’em-Up

Platforms: Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Vortex Attack

Publisher: Kaleido Games

Developer: Kaleido Games

Genre: Action

Release Date: May 27th, 2015

Vortex Attack – What We Think:

Vortex Attack attempts to put a modern spin on the classic arcade shoot-’em-up, but it’s really more of a mash-up than an update. The basic concepts work, and it’s a fun enough diversion, but it still falls a little flat.

Vortex Attack, bonus round

Kaleido Games‘ biggest inspiration for Vortex is Galaga, one of my own all-time favorites, and that shows up in both the enemy design – lots of insectoid enemies buzzing around – and their attack patterns, especially during bonus rounds. There’s also a touch of Asteroids here, from the triangular shapes of the various ships you can pilot and, of course, the presence of actual asteroids.

Take It to The Hoop

More unexpectedly, Vortex Attack reminds me of Sinistarr, in that its main enemy – in this case the titular vortex in the upper middle portion of the screen – can’t be destroyed by conventional means. Instead of beating a level by defeating a set number of enemies, the vortex must be destroyed; otherwise it’ll continue to spawn enemies.

Vortex Attack screenshot, space shooting

In order to defeat the vortex, you have to collect “lumergy blocks,” glowing triangles dropped by blasted enemies that then fire themselves at the vortex. It’s quite a bit like collecting bomb fragments to use against the eponymous enemy boss in Sinistarr.

It also makes for a more interesting approach than simply blasting waves of enemies, because it requires a constant balancing act: stay out of the way of enemy bullets, or try to swoop in to pick up dropped lumergy blocks? Adding to this effect – and the game’s primary nod toward more contemporary space shooters – is the fact that enemies also drop power-ups, like shields, bombs and multi-shot effects.

Like a Fistful of Quarters

The controls are a bit tough to get used to – at first I felt like the game was demanding bullet hell precision on clunky, arcade-era controls – but a generous health bar and arcade-style “Continue” credits keep things from being too punishing. If anything, the game errs a bit on the side of being too forgiving. Once I had the basic concepts down, repeating the early levels felt like a grind.

Vortex Attack, bullet hell elements

Vortex Attack is a decent shooter, but it’s a bit let down by its graphics. While the game makes nods to more modern visuals – notably in the colorful backgrounds – the enemies feel two-dimensional. They reminded me of cut-out cardboard counters from some imaginary, overly complicated tabletop strategy game based on ’80s arcade shooters.

Thank You For Not Smoking

That’s forgivable, and arguably a stylistic choice some will enjoy; I began to enjoy it myself after progressing far enough to see some more interesting-looking enemies. Bosses, on the other hand, are just boring. One early “mothership” looks like nothing so much as the giant ashtray urns you find outside of movie theaters and museums.

Vortex Attack, flying ashtray boss

Vortex is no great shakes in the sound department, either. The music has the requisite arcade feel, with thumping beats and MIDI guitar solos and everything, but it gets repetitive in a hurry. Similarly, the sound of your guns is tinny and insubstantial, and the synthesized “BLOOPS” that sound each time you grab a lumergy block are dull and disappointing, all the more because you hear them so often. Somehow both annoyed and annoying, they sound like error alerts from an obsolete operating system.

Take It for a Whirl

Despite missed opportunities in the sound and vision arena, Vortex Assault is still a charming arcade shoot-’em-up. It doesn’t quite live up to the ideal embodied by its classic inspirations, but if you’re a fellow Galaga fan, you’ll at least enjoy a momentary rush of nostalgia. Groundbreaking it ain’t, but it’s worth picking up if you need a quick fix of space bug blasting.

Vortex Attack is available via Steam.

[xrr rating=”3/5″]

Watch the trailer for Vortex Attack below:

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