The work of a space pilot is never done – and in Futuridium EP Deluxe, you'll learn this firsthand. This retro themed shooter attempts to combine classic genre tropes with modern sensibilities, while also providing a cacophony of visual and sonic stimulation. But does this ship reach warp speed, or could it have used a bit longer in the hangar?
At its core, this iOS port is a 3D shooter in the classical style. You’ll zip about deep space, attempting to destroy clumps of conveniently placed blue blocks, dodging turret fire all the while. What’s more, you have a constantly depleting energy bar, which will end your mission should it reach zero. Luckily, your ship has two speeds, and can switch directions at the touch of a button, so learning to master these functions is often the difference between survival and vehicular vaporization.
To put it simply, when these mechanics work effectively, you’ll feel like Luke Skywalker storming the trenches of the Death Star. However, every so often, this grand operatic illusion will be shattered by a missed shot caused not by lack of skill, but by the game’s problematic depth perception. The vast 3D space combined with the relatively simplistic graphics means that it can very occasionally be tricky to line up a shot. In truth, this is a minor gripe, but in a game that demands so much precision, the moments in which the systems fail stand out like a brightly flashing neon thumb.
The game’s main mode features five sets of ten levels. Each set must be completed in a single run before the next set is unlocked. The real hook here, though, is the challenge of replaying levels to beat your previous times. However, a brilliantly nuanced difficulty curve means that you’re constantly being tested with new ideas and challenges. It’s the sort of level design that will consistently make you feel like you’re a couple of steps behind, while still providing you with the tools that you need to complete a level.
One of these tools is a separate mode which allows you to replay single levels, polishing your performance to a perfect lustre. This means that the aforementioned ten stage structure never feels unfair or restrictive. If there’s a level that you’re struggling with, simply play through it a few times and you’ll soon be blasting up cubes with the best of them.
In another clever twist, the game rewards you for every 500 of the shimmering shapes that you shoot. Often you’ll get a new visual theme or game mode, but the most useful rewards are the credits, which allow you to continue your game if you meet an untimely demise. In this way, the game balances itself, allowing you to make progress even if your aim is a bit dodgy.
In terms of presentation, the title’s boxy graphics serve a dual purpose. First and foremost, they act as a neat visual throwback to the shooters of yore. But on a subtler – and more important – level, they allow the game to be explicit with what it wants you to do. In other words, your objectives are always clearly defined, because they’re almost always signposted by a brightly flashing neon box. Ultimately, this allows you to focus on the task at hand, and gives the game a very arcade-esque feel.
However, the game’s soundtrack is the true standout in this department. The EP in the title is not pretentious fluff; there is at least an entire album's worth of staggeringly brilliant music here. From syncopated wubs to jazzy guitar solos and everything in between – including an incredibly catchy chorus of cowbells – this is a truly masterful score, and one that absolutely deserves to be listened to with headphones.
Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly considering its smartphone roots, the title holds up remarkably well on the Vita. While the lack of cross-save is definitely a missed opportunity, the gameplay feels just as sharp and satisfying on a small screen as it does on a television.
With tight gameplay, sharp shooting, and a remarkable sense of style, Futuridium EP Deluxe is a delightful 3D shooter. While there are certainly moments of frustration to be had here – predominantly stemming from misjudged aiming – the gorgeous graphics and stellar soundtrack more than make up for any misgivings. Oh, and if you do decide to play it, be sure to use headphones.