Inversus Review -- Squaring Off With Friends
Review copy provided by the publisher
People tend to think that a layer of strategy is lost as a game becomes faster-paced and more simple. How can something that doesn’t seem that complicated have such rewarding mechanics? Inversus proves that simple gameplay can still have strategical depth. While one can still play the game without much practice or knowledge of the deeper mechanics, those who dedicate themselves to the game will find a fun and rewarding experience to keep returning to.
The easiest thing to compare Inversus’ control to is The Binding of Issac. The player move around with the control sticks instead of the d-pad, but can use the face buttons to shoot up, down, left, and right. Holding the button will create a charged shot, which is more powerful and covers more ground. These extremely easy to grasp controls make the game easy to pick up and play.
The player starts out with five ammo, represent by little circles in the square. The limited ammo creates a risk-reward system, as you can either choose to go in guns-a-blazing and keep at the cost of your score, or hold back your shots and shoot at the opportune moment, but risk getting hit and dying. If you get shot or hit even once, they die. Ammo can be replenished by obtaining pickups which appear on the map as little red dots after enemies are killed. These come in groups of either one or three, so the player can decide whether or not they want to risk getting more ammo.
There are a few more advanced mechanics that players can learn once they get a feeling of the controls. For instance, players can shoot behind corners by using a charged shot, parry bullets by shooting just before it hits them, and use ammo pickups as cover. These mechanics, along with the basic ones, are taught in two separate tutorials. These are very non-intrusive — players are not forced to go thorough them.
Ultimately, Inversus’ gameplay, while simple, does have some more dedicated techniques for less casual players to preform and pull off. These add a layer of complexity to both the arcade and versus mode, and give the player new mechanics to master after they are comfortable with the basic controls.
In Arcade mode, players fend off various red square for as long as they can. Enemies drop power-ups upon death, and the players must constantly move to stay alive. Killing enemies close to each other will start a chain reaction of exploding-death among the menacing red squares, building up a score multipliers.
The one problem with this mode is that enemies move the same as the player, so they can come at you diagonally, even though it is not possible to shoot that way. This flaw lead to some cheap unpreventable deaths, that while only a minor frustration, make the experience slightly less enjoyable.Being able to shoot diagonally, possibly with the left and right buttons and triggers being used to shoot in those directions, would have given the player more coverage on the battlefield, and would have prevented some unfair deaths.
There are six maps, each unlocked by killing a certain amount of enemies on the previously unlocked level. The first one that is unlocked from the start is called Far. It is the most basic of the stages, being a simple rectangle, and is a great first level that allows players to grasp the game’s mechanics and controls and learn how to build up multipliers without feeling cramped or stressed out.
Next comes Globe, a much smaller arena in the shape of a diamond. Its smaller size makes getting combos easier, but (conversely) it’s a lot easier to get hit. Next comes Castle — the first level to wrap around on the edge of the screen, but it is much more cramped than the other stages. This is where not being able to shoot diagonally becomes most frustrating thanks to the enemies’ movements.
Beyond those introductory stages, most of the stages are well-crafted around the game’s mechanics, and each one provides a unique experience. All maps can be unlocked in about two and a half hours, and while is not very long, players will be constantly returning to arcade mode to test their skills, so the player still gets their moneys-worth out of this mode . This mode can also be played with two people, and becomes even more entertaining (and chaotic) when doing so.
But the main focus of Inversus is its (titular) versus mode, where players can get in 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 matches to eliminate their friends. This mode actually includes full online lobbies and matches, something often missing in smaller indie arcade games such as this. There are also lobbies to include only your friends, or play locally if you just want some good ol’ couch co-op, which has nearly disappeared in many modern games. There are 27 maps for this mode, some of which are retreads of arcade levels, but most being completely new.
The goal is simple: shoot your opponent before they shoot you. Fighting an actual opponent is more engaging than fighting the AI, and creates a fun game experience that anyone can get engaged with. Each team has an opposing color (black or white) and you are only able to traverse on the opposite color tiles. Simply by shooting, players are able to change the tiles to their color — giving them more access, while simultaneously tapping your opponent.
Local versus is very enjoyable, with no problems coming up in terms of the game’s frame rate or control. Online play, while still fun, does not run as smoothly as it could have. After playing online for a few matches, I experienced some lag, which briefly paused the game and created some odd hit detection, as I would get hit by something that was not near me. These problems only happened occasionally though, so the experience was still very enjoyable.
These only problems can easily be fixed in future updates, so Inversus‘ online experience can only get better. This is a great new multiplayer arcade game to play with friends, and fully fleshed online play with lobbies is appreciated for a smaller indie game such as this.
The soundtrack is also very upbeat. While not anything incredible, Lyvo’s electronic music sets the upbeat and casual mood and keeps the player engaged. Leader-boards also exist for the arcade mode, and let players see how they stack up both against friends and against people across the globe.
Inversus is a very entertaining game — while the lack of diagonal shooting and occasional lag in the online mode could be frustrating, the rest of the title is addicting enough to keep players coming back to fight for the high score. Facing people online was also a very fun experience, and I am excited to see what kind of community builds itself around this game. There is easily enough strategy in the game that versus and arcade matches never get old, even on the limited selections of maps. If you are a fan of high-score chasing or couch co-op, Inversus should be on your radar.