Inversus started out as a game jam idea to create a player space that’s created through the chaotic actions of the player. Though the Jam went in another direction, it stuck with single member game studio Hypersect. That’s right, this entire game was made by one dude, Ryan Juckett, designer, programmer and artist. Which is more than just a little bit impressive when you start to play the game. The interface is so clean and easy to use, the music is sublime and the voice over work really adds to the professional feel overall.
You play as a square loaded with five bullets to shoot away paths and areas and change them from black to white. You can move over the white squares as the black squares wall you in. You shoot in one of four directions using the face buttons, holding a button charges the shot to become a triple shot. This only costs one bullet but charging takes a fair amount of time and slows movement to a crawl. Although you will eventually reload over time it takes a while. You will be continuously attacked by glowing red squares that home in on your position at varying speeds. While you are busying creating a path they will be generating black squares in an attempt to block you at every turn. Each of the red squares have a blast area of the 8 squares around them, if another is in close proximity you can get a chain combo. Each enemy you destroy leaves behind ammo, the more you chain, the more ammo you receive. Firing one shot into a clump of pursuers and watching them pop is extremely satisfying.
If you survive long enough you get enemies that look similar to your square. They fire either a singular shot or a charged shot and can be tricky in large groups. On later levels these are the initial enemies followed later by the familiar red blocks. There are only six arcade levels though each has been designed to be replayed repeatedly just to unlock the next level. As with most shoot ‘em ups you will start to learn tactics to optimise points. The levels only end when you lose all 3 lives, you can’t earn anymore by score, though you don’t really need to. The point is simply to survive long enough to get the top score for the online high score table. Each level in the Arcade is uniquely designed to give a fresh challenge each time. Some have Pac-Man style warp at the edge of the screen, others repeatedly mirror sections to confuse.
As the game’s name implies, the main focus is on the versus aspect of the title. It has 27 levels to play through, albeit a fair few are duplicates with very minor differences. There are some power ups have more variety including shields that take a single shot of damage. There’s one me and a friend called the ‘power pill’ that allows you to go where you want and destroys your opponent by ramming into them. You aren’t invincible in this mode and can still be shot, so be careful how you plan your attack. You can also pick up special ammo that speeds up your next shot. Power ups always appear in the same places on the map, so a fight for spawn zones and destroying your opponent’s power ups quickly ensues.
That’s about all there is to Inversus, it’s super simple but the end result is very effective. The gameplay is fast, smooth and responsive. The overall presentation is clean and everything you expect from a contemporary title. The only real issue is the rare occasion enemies respawn directly on top of you, which can be a bit annoying at times. The vast majority respawn on the edges of the play area, so keeping on the move is advisable. There’s an addictive quality to the gameplay which makes it all the more tragic that beyond that there’s no real replay value. The over focus on multiplayer both local and online is to the detriment of the single player even though it didn’t have to be that way. I really don’t understand why the 27 multiplayer maps couldn’t have been used for the single player that only has a paltry 6 levels. It seems only those after the top online high score will keep playing beyond opening all the levels in both modes. With this lack of longevity due to a lack of content, I have to question the game’s price tag.
As impressive as it is to have a game of this quality from a single person, there’s not enough to really justify it. This is a saturated market and there’s already great shoot ‘em up games that have more content but cost less. It’s a few hours of solid fun you might occasionally revisit with friends but it’s not much more than that.
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