Vertex Dispenser is a difficult game to describe, and that’s coming from somebody who has to deal with quirky/insane indie games on a regular basis. It’s deceptively simple, thanks to the minimalistic graphics and seemingly shallow gameplay.
The more time you put into the game though, the more complex it actually becomes, to a fault.
Developer Smestorp Limited advertises Vertex Dispenser as a real time strategy game, and I suppose you could say that’s true. Each level has you starting off on a simple grid as a ship, facing off against one or more ships. Get rid of all their vertices (aka DOTS), and you win.
You can capture triangular sections which will automatically defend against enemies and provide an effective means of strategy, but they’ll only last as long as the enemy doesn’t shoot back. Additionally, you have special powers and abilities associated with the different colors of vertices. Things like smart bombs, spread shots, and defensive abilities can be unlocked by capturing vertices corresponding to certain colors. It’s an esoteric concept to grasp, even after the tutorials about it; this is definitely not a game to be playing when you’re half-asleep.
Therein lies an amazingly complex and deep form of strategy, but the more I progressed, the more I found myself ditching the strategy of the color scheme altogether, and the more I found success in just hauling ass and mowing down every single vertex and ship I could on my own, without relying on special abilities.
That’s perhaps the biggest fault of Vertex Dispenser: it’s billed as a strategy game, but in later levels, when things get considerably more hectic and chaotic, there isn’t much time to think about what color order you’re going to need to achieve in order to get energy for a power that you want to use. It then turns into an action game through and through, where you’re just pounding on your arrow keys and hoping to God the ships won’t kill you before you get to them. I’m sure there’s people out there smarter and more quick-witted than I, that can quickly figure out the strategies on the fly, but most people, when things get hot and heavy, will likely just turn off their brains altogether and resort to run-and-gun tactics.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; Vertex Dispenser is still enjoyable enough without the strategy. Unfortunately, that also makes the game a tad bit shallow, and thus a bit of a hard sell. The single player campaign is enjoyable enough, but with no true depth, it’s a bit of a chore to get through. There’s also a single player puzzle mode that’ll take up a considerable amount of your time as well, but once again, a lot of it centers around the strategy surrounding the vertex colors, which is more complex than deep.
Ultimately, Vertex Dispenser would have been a great game at about $6.99, but for $10, I unfortunately don’t know if I could recommend it to anyone. The idea’s great; with a little more polish, depth, and intuitive gameplay, this would’ve really been a home-run. As it stands though, it’s a game that’s simply good and only slightly interesting.