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  • Name: X-type +
  • Genre – Twin stick shooter
  • Studio : PhobosLab
  • Platform : Wii U
  • Type : eShop
  • Price : £2.69

 

‘This surely can’t be possible. This is the final level, right?’

Around level 11 of X-Type +, this type of thought begins to creep in at the edge of the mind, clouding your thoughts until concentration breaks and you pilot your little spaceship into a cul-de-sac made of piping hot plasma. Then you die and it’s all the way back to level 1. You push through the frustration and start again.

You snort derisively at the early levels you now find easy, even trivial. As you weave expertly through concentric circles of laser bullets and clear a path through homing missiles, you slip into a sort of trance state. You aren’t looking at your ship, or the single giant enemy boss that comprises the entirety of each stage. Instead you look at an imagined spot, a few ship lengths in every direction from where you are. You throw your consciousness forwards in time by two seconds to try to sniff out the safest routes through the storm, while changing the angle of your rat-a-tat laser gun to maintain contact with the enemy. Everything is going well until the doubt creeps in again, or the cat jumps on your lap, or your idiot friend asks if you’ve ever beaten level 12 yet. Back to the beginning.

If that sounds appealing to you and you have all the necessary resources, then make no delay and go and download it right now. If that sounds like a headache, or an exercise in masochism then keep reading and I’ll talk you round.

X-Type + is a very stripped down game offering just two modes: Classic, where your only defence is the practise of clairvoyance, and Plus Mode which is a little more action focused and arcadey, with screen clearing EMP bombs and extra enemy types thrown into the mix. Both modes are fun, but it’s Classic that I keep coming back to, each time hoping that this run might be the run where I finally make it to level 15. The controls are excellent. Movement is extremely responsive and the twin stick set up (a la Geometry Wars) gives you plenty of freedom to weave around. If you have the chance, try playing it with the pro controller, and practically weep with joy at the comfort of it.

The game looks great, albeit quite simple. You have a little turquoise ship, and you fire lasers at a big yellow and orange thing that looks a bit like an electron microscope picture of a virus. The odd lighting and particle effect adds a some glamour to proceedings, but really for a game as finely tuned as this, graphics matter about as much as story i.e. not at all.

Similarly, the sound direction is pretty good, with shuffling, Metroid Esque electro playing away in the background, overlaid with the constant helicopter sound of your gun. It seems to be designed (like everything else non essential to the gameplay) to be easily ignored, to never distract from those frequent Zen moments that are the real brilliance of the game.

There are online leaderboards. This type of game lends itself very well to a certain kind of competitor. Those with the rare blend of cat reflexes and saint patience battle it out at the top for ever more improbable sounding scores. When I first bought the game the highest ever score had reached stage 18 – I was a contender. When I looked a week ago things had escalated and there were now people reaching level 28. I don’t want to know where it’s gotten to now. But even if I can’t be a world beater, at least I can trounce my friends and have cold hard leaderboards to back it up. One excellent feature is to download and watch replay data. You can do this to try and glean some tips and strategies from better players than yourself, or you can just watch, slack jawed in awe, as people make impossible saves and maneuvers one after another.

X-Type + is a game in a pure and modest way. It is an enormously refined control system and a perfectly balance reward loop wrapped up in the minimum amount of fancy paper and baubles to render it acceptable to a modern audience. In a world full of The Last of Us and Tell-Tale interactive fiction gameplay sometimes plays second fiddle to supposedly emotive storytelling or technical prowess, but not here. Here, do the best that you can, avoiding disaster where possible but still making mistakes until you inevitably die, and it’s beautiful.