Whenever a new gaming peripheral hits the market, developers come out of the woodwork seeking that certain title to land the sweet spot that screams “must-buy”. With PlayStation VR still in its infancy, the waves of these hopeful titles are beginning to pour in. Zero Transform’s addition to the PSVR library, the arcade style brick-breaking game Proton Pulse, never quite hits that sweet spot. From the faulty PlayStation Move controls, to the monotonous levels, Proton Pulse loses its charge mighty quickly.
Proton Pulse attempts to tell a story within a genre that usually requires nothing more than a one line plot. An evil force known as the M.O.A.I. is threatening to take over, and you are recruited to thwart this evil in a game of atomic paddleball. Yes, that’s atomic paddleball. Using your wit and reflexes, you must win this high stakes game and guide the proton energy ball though many block obstacles and obstructions, and ultimately right to the core of the M.O.A.I.
The game contains three worlds. Each world is made up of numerous levels, all attempting to challenge you as you progress. The problem is the actual difficulty is elementary at best and become stagnant. There’s even a slow-down feature for those who need the extra assistance. Different formations of illuminated bricks must be broken down with the proton ball to advance. You can unlock different types of proton balls to help break down specific obstacles. For example, the black metal-like ball will break down stone and harder material bricks, while the large proton will trounce over any formation easily. There’s also a counter on the paddle that will make the ball proton charged after 25 hits, basically destroying whatever ever comes near its electrical charge.
It does however, take some skill to line up the ball at certain angles with the paddle to manipulate it towards the desired direction. Unfortunately, that’s where the challenge seems to end. Each world is filled with too many of the same style levels and repetitive puzzles. Whatever difficulty you may have felt when first confronted, will be a cake walk by the time you finish that world. Upon completing each world you are greeted with a bare-bones boss battle. The mechanics are simple and offer no real sense of reward after defeating the big bad foe. The final boss offers somewhat of a challenge through its different sequences, but I found my issue more with the poor head-tracking rather than the boss’ design. Proton Pulse puts forth a noble effort to try and keep the dynamics of the gameplay and puzzles fresh, but falls victim to its repetitive nature.
Proton Pulse is supposed to offer two different control styles with the PlayStation Move controllers and the VR head-tracking. After numerous failed and frustrating attempts, it appeared to me that the head-tracking was the only viable option. For whatever reason the Move controllers never seemed to sync to my actual movements. I tried recalibrating my camera and controllers a few times, but all with the same result. It was a bit disheartening because that was the play-style I was actually looking forward to trying. Leaving only the headset itself for controlling, I must say, it wasn’t that bad. For the most part it seemed to be spot on, but keep in mind the game often moves at a slower pace. In the final boss fight when the action speeds up, I did noticed a few hiccups with its responsiveness.
Now Proton Pulse may have let me down in the gameplay department, but it surely didn’t disappoint with the soundtrack. The chip-tune style accompaniment was awesome and really refreshing to hear. It brought me back to the old-school Genesis games I used to play as a kid, the kind of stuff that you find yourself humming hours after you play. It’s so enjoyable you almost feel it’s a waste in a game like Proton Pulse. Most of the time it felt like the soundtrack should have been following an adventure much more exciting than the one I was playing.
With all the exciting possibilities and new ways to play using the PlayStation VR, its unfortunate developer Zero Transform never quite capitalizes on its potential. Proton Pulse is an arcade indie that is plagued with a rinse and repeat formula. A concept that is entertaining in theory, but will begin to feel the burden of its flaws all too soon. While the core gameplay may have an introductory fun factor, Proton Pulse lacks the heart to make it truly electric.
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