So, Schell Games’ Enemy Mind has a retro digitized synth voice that brings memories of old arcade games like Sinistar and Ikari Warriors to the forefront. Um. Hmm… Oh, I know! It also employs a feature wherein it does not cause my gaming equipment to cover my hands in battery acid. Yes, I had some knockoff super copyright death thing, loaded with pirated ROMs, that the wife bought me where this actually happened. Though, it was the hardware in that case and Schell Games cannot take credit for my current configuration. Besides, when I am done with this review I am sure that they will figure out a way to add this item in a patch for me. Sorry, Schell.
The premise of Enemy Mind is something I could really get excited about. In a novel twist of the old school shmup genre, you are given the ability to abandon your current space craft and take over any other space craft on screen with a well aimed press of a button. I will tell you: the idea of taking over a space faring warship is much more appealing than haunting a bowl of dog food to frighten a canine. So, yes. There is room for this concept to be done right.
It’s when one plays the game that all hopes melt away like my poor, beleaguered hands undergoing the fore mentioned acid bath. (This happened years ago, but I haven’t trotted this one out for a while so I can still score marriage points off of it. That’s how it works, right?) The game’s biggest issue is the lethargic pace of the whole thing. In a shmup, you need to feel like you are tearing through the galaxy at blinding speeds, winding your way through an overwhelming opposition in a superpowered death ship. In this one, you putter along, taking out hostile forces if they happen to meander into your path. Instead of feeling excitement and elation, I felt as though I was undergoing Spaceballs: The Prince Valium Simulator.
The graphics don’t help matters. While I have made no secret of the fact that I can be won over by the proper invocation of nostalgia tinged retro graphics, what is here feels phoned in. Featuring designs such as a rectangle and an arrow looking thing, the impression I had was of the designer messing around with sprites until something resembling a ship emerged. Animation is optional in this process. A couple of ships might turn slightly with movement, but most of the sprites are static as you navigate them around the screen. The effect is largely similar to the old Tiger LCD handhelds that entertained me for fives of minutes as a child.
This feeling also transferred to the action. Again, it is slow paced. This is compounded by the fact that if you do not catch the enemies when they first pop on screen, it is better to let them be until they leave the screen. Most of the ships simply shoot and move in a straight line after they have entered the screen. The exceptions to this are the various alien ships that can offer a three shot spread, charge attack, shield, and others. I favored the aliens for this reason.
I would advise that you not get too attached to a ship, however, as each has extremely limited ammunition on board. That is correct. Limited ammunition in a 2D, side scrolling, space based shoot-em-up. I realize that Schell Games probably needed a reason to keep players switching ships in order to make use of their central concept. This was what they settled on. They certainly did not want players to stick with a favorite ship and miss out on what can make this game unique. I would like to make a suggestion to the developers. Take the ship switching concept, and strip out the limited ammo. Next, look to Advanced Wars and Pokemon for your inspiration. Basically, introduce a “rock-paper-scissors” element to the proceedings that would force players to make on the fly tactical decisions about the type of ship they want to occupy. Mix up the layouts of the waves with the story explanation of “every species wants to be rid of the body snatcher.” I realize that I am a not-as-humble-as-I-should-be reviewer, but this is a game that I would play and one that makes use of what is in place.
Instead, the most creative that the designers got are sequences where you leap you consciousness from asteroid to asteroid in a weird platforming segment. For those of you skimming this review, shame on you. I hand pick each word only after checking its ripeness on the vine to ensure that only quality is brought to your computer screen. I will forgive you this one time and retype point: You. Transfer. Your. Sentient. Consciousness. From. Rock. To. Rock. At least the people who designed the dog food scenario could argue that the ingredients of Rover’s Delight was once a living, neighing thing.
I should also mention the malleable story that changes based on what ship you use at the end of the level, but it’s gibberish. I don’t feel this should factor into the score of a shmup as most stories in this genre are pointless nonsense. It just is just another ambitious feature that didn’t pan out the way it could have.
As you can tell, I was not a big fan of this one. There are much better games on the Steam market to satisfy your old-school shmup needs. Were this priced at a dollar, I would still call this a solid purchase to study wasted potential. The current ten dollar asking price for the quality of the game is insulting.