Despite its place as the more traditionally Japanese-friendly console of the two, the PS3 always fell painfully short of the 360’s surprisingly robust library of shooters. While it may have been a primarily Western oriented console, the Xbox 360 was, for all intents and purposes, the unofficial home of one of the most quintessentially Japanese genres of all – the shoot-em-up (or shmup). With Cave, Treasure and a host of other Japanese developers committing to the platform, the 360 provided a rich source of classic vertical and side scrolling shooters. The PS3 wasn’t without its own of course, but rather bizarrely, many of the finest shooters of the generation became Xbox 360 exclusives.
The same does not appear to be true of this generation. The Xbox One is shmup poor, and while the PS4 isn’t exactly bursting at the seams, there is a decent collection slowly growing with Active Gaming Media’s largely enjoyable, Prismatic Solid filling the traditional, vertically-scrolling shooter gap. A much more colourful and far trippier shooter than your average Japanese fare, Prismatic Solid’s relatively unique aesthetic is just one aspect of its design that makes it stand out from the bonkers but often surprisingly uniform crowd.
Beyond its psychedelic visual design and bizarre enemies and locations, Prismatic Solid distances itself from the majority of shooters by giving the player immediate access to 6 different types of weapon. Like Treasure’s genre defining, Radiant Silvergun, Prismatic Solid does away with ship upgrades and weapon drops and instead provides full access from the off with each weapon proving the weapon of choice for specific circumstances and enemies. It has obviously been done before, but this mechanic is rarely used and gives the game a unique tactical depth that works thanks to the games’ solid selection of enemies and obstacles. It’ perhaps not as deep as it thinks it is (the scoring system is a bit of a let-down), but still, the game does just enough to warrant this on the fly, weapon switching mechanic.
The thing that really brings this unique selection of weaponry to life however is Prismatic Solid’s R-Type like orbs. Not only do they provide additional attack capabilities of their own, but their shield formation changes based upon the weapon that you are currently using, thus giving the game a very effective risk / reward mechanic that asks you to balance shield power against weaponr power at every turn. They also deliver a visual flair to your otherwise rather boring looking ship, but sadly do so at the cost of actual visibility. Between these laser-like orbs and the constant explosions of colour going on at each and every turn, it’s actually rather easy to lose track of your little ship and thus far easier to come into contact with the scenery / enemies by accident. A lack of skill was occasionally the primary reason for my death, but far too often, I found myself losing a life due to the lack of ship visibility. It’s a relatively minor gripe, but one that could, and really should have been avoided, and in a game of such fine margins and high-score chasing, avoidable deaths can prove hugely frustrating.
As previously mentioned, these uniquely coloured pods can be used to protect your ship from projectiles while also delivering an array of special wave attacks. Colour co-ordinated power ups are used to charge each of the pods so that you can unleash additional burst attacks, but again, beyond simply saving ammunition, you must take into consideration the fact that using these wave attacks will also diminish the size of each pod and thus come at the cost of shield size. This addition is particularly revelatory, but again, its is the complete package and array of relatively unique design choices that have combined to create one of the more distinct and enjoyable shooters of the generation.
As with the majority of shmups, Prismatic Solid is very short of content. There are just five relatively brief stages to navigate with an additional bonus stage for those who unlock it. There is a second run available upon completion, but this is basically the same collection of stages revamped and with a higher difficulty. As always, it will be the draw of the leaderboards that will keep many coming back. The scoring system itself isn’t the finest example you’ll come across, but it does the job and provides the carrot and stick required to keep gamers coming back to replay the same missions over and over again.
The scoring system is far from perfect, the wave formation of the enemies not the most imaginative and the boss battles are occasionally underwhelming, but despite these issues, Prismatic Solid delivers a visually unique, mechanically interesting and, above all else, hugely enjoyable vertically-scrolling shooter. It’s no match for Treasure or Cave’s finest examples of the genre, but judged on its own merits, this is a fine addition to the ever growing library of fantastic indie titles on the PS4 and another great shooter to add to the collection.
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