It’s amazing that, 11 years after its original release (13 years if you count Project Gotham Racing 2), so many twin-stick shooters still follow the mechanical and artistic template established by Bizarre Creations’ masterful, Geometry Wars. Despite all but perfecting the genre over a decade ago, the industry has never been short of pretenders to its crown with, Eclipse Games, Tachyon Project being the latest to have a shot (no pun intended) at the twin-stick title.
While it fails to eclipse the ever excellent Geometry Wars, this Wii U shooter certainly stands out as one of the better examples of the genre, and arguably the best of its kind available on a modern Nintendo console. It would be easy to call Tachyon Project’s gameplay and aesthetic derivative (because it is), but despite its relative lack of originality, it’s nonetheless an exemplary shooter with solid mechanics, plenty of challenge and clean, crisp visuals.
Heck, it’s even got a story which, well, it’s actually rather rubbish to be honest. Ok, the story itself, one revolving around a lost AI attempting to find its creators after being abandoned online, actually works rather well and does a great job of explaining the power-ups while giving the game a sense of progression beyond the simple score chasing element that usually defines the genre. Sadly, while the story itself is decent enough, the low rent delivery, shoddy cut-scene animations and forgettable audio all combine to create a very skippable experience. It’s nice to get a bit of context, but really, those cutscenes are just horrible.
Still, nobody in their right mind is playing, Tachyon Project for its story. The draw here is the gameplay, and for the most part, it’s of a very high standard. The story mode itself is only made of 10 stages, but with each stage made up of a number of individual challenges, there is plenty here for fans of the genre to get stuck into. Beyond the unique challenges thrown at you throughout said story mode, the inclusion of a + mode upon completion ensures that there is plenty to keep the hardcore busy. Saying that, it’s not like the core story mode is a cake walk – I for one found it plenty difficult, and with the ever depressing leaderboards to contend with, I always had a new goal to aim for while playing.
Yes, at it’s core, this is just another, neon-drenched, single screen shooter, but with its smartly implemented upgrades and interesting use of time rather than health, it does more than enough to make it stand out from its most obvious point of comparison. Beyond the slick, if undoubtedly familiar fundamental shooting mechanics, the unlockable upgrades give you both something to aim for and a way to tailor the game based upon your own set of skills. Whether it be improved speed, health boosts or additional fire power, once you unlock the relevant abilities, you can upgrade and customise your tiny ship to your liking and subsequently experiment with the different combinations until you find the style that best suits your particular play style.
As good as the upgrade and customisable options might be though, it’s arguably, Tachyon Project’s use of time that is its most unique aspect. Rather than a health bar, you are provided with a set amount of time for each stage. This ever ticking clock can be added to by destroying large groups of enemies but is also whittled down dramatically when you are hit. This mechanic lends itself well to last minute saves and brutal turnarounds as doomed stages are saved by some last minute heroics while great runs are suddenly savaged as you find yourself cornered by large swarms of enemy ships. It doesn’t affect the core gameplay in any great way, but it will affect your approach to combat with the timer providing an additional and ever-present threat to go alongside all of those troublesome enemy programmes.
With an additional Challenge Mode, local co-op and online leaderboards also included, Tachyon Project offers plenty of content for its relatively reasonable asking price. Sure, it’s aesthetically unimaginative, the gameplay is overtly familiar and the off screen play inexplicably has no sound (what’s that about?), but despite these issues, Eclipse Games’ eShop shooter stands comfortably as one of the finer examples of the genre and certainly one of the best arcade style shooters available on the Wii U. With it’s cool customisable options, its solid core gameplay and its clever use of time, just about anyone with an interest in the genre should find something to like here.
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