It’s hard to believe that Resogun was only shown off a few months ago because it feels like a game people have been hyped up about for much longer. Housemarque made a name for themselves with the Super Stardust twin-stick shooters on the PS3 and Vita, and Resogun looked like the most beautiful twin-stick shooter ever made with a fairly unique visual style to set it apart. Everything in the world is made up of voxels – 3D pixels that are basically the same kind of thing as in 3D Dot Game Heroes, and they break apart like LEGO blocks in that series by scattering all across the screen.
Resogun’s premise also helps it stand out. While your core goal is to destroy all of the on-screen enemies (or at least enough to fill three phase bars on the screen) before fighting a boss, the addition of people change things up a bit. Throughout each of the six levels, you’ll have ten people you can possibly save. While you don’t have to, like in Zombies Ate My Neighbors, it’s to your benefit to do so. There, you’d just get a point bonus. Here, if you pick people up from being killed by the enemies and send them off to safety, you might get points – or better yet, items. If you luck out, you’ll be able to get an extra life, an extra bomb, a limited-time shield that can withstand a single hit, or an overdrive power-up. The overdrive function gives you a super-powered blast that only lasts a little while, but can save your ass in a boss battle.
One neat little thing is that the bar you’ve been filling up the whole time at the bottom of the screen throughout each of a stage’s phases actually winds up being the boss’s life bar – so you must destroy the thing you sort of helped create. In order to destroy it and its many underlings, you’ll use the left stick to move in any direction and the right stick to shoot either right or left. At first, it takes some time to get used to a twin-stick shooter with such limited shooting functionality, but it makes you think about each shot before you take it.
The shoulder and trigger buttons give you some additional things to aid you. L1 gives you a boost that can make you invincible against smaller foes as you dash through them to possibly send a person off to safety, or you can use L2 to send a person skyward in case you sense they’re in immediate danger. You run the risk of them getting killed, but it’s preferable to a guarantee of that happening if you foresee danger. Beyond that, R1 activates the overdrive power-up which varies in overall usefulness depending on the ship you pick. There are only three, so it doesn’t make too big a difference, but if you go with the slowest ship, you’ll also gain the longest-range overdrive weapon which can allow you to do massive damage from about halfway across the screen. The blast radius on the R2 bomb is the same no matter what ship you choose, and can be a life-saver in tough boss battles – it was for me in the final boss battle where I was one hit away from death.
The circular nature of the environment is an interesting little gimmick. It reminds me a bit of the recent Burgertime game on XBLA, so it was pretty easy to get used to – and leads to the HUD immediately standing out due to its orientation following suit. The best way to imagine the gameplay is to think of a coffee or oatmeal can and then cut it in thirds – you’re doing battle on about 2/3 of its circumference. This means that the battlefield can get a bit cramped and you’ll have to hope your bullet hell skills come in handy as you dodge enemy fire and the enemies on a short, but wide area. The orientation reminds me a lot of a vertical shooter that is just turned horizontal with how confined it feels and that adds a lot of tension to things.
As a shooter, it’s an exciting game and the controls are perfect. The revamped trigger system is much easier to use than the awkward L2 and R2 buttons on the PS3 pad, while the sticks are far more comfortable to use and feel easier to move exactly where you want with ease due to that. The difficulty ramps up gradually, but even if you’re a twin stick veteran, start on rookie and then move up because you can easily get swamped trying to start on normal or hard.
Visually, Resogun is a stunning game even if it doesn’t look like something that is too far beyond current-gen hardware. Seeing all of the voxels explode and cover the screen and environment is impressive, and the heavy lighting effects and shading deliver some gorgeous graphics. Death is something you may hate in most games, but may wind up welcoming here after getting a trippy game over screen. The bomb visual effect is also amazing, while the overdrive lighting effect fills the screen with color that naturally reflects off of everything in the world and will impress as much the tenth time you see it as it does the first.
Resogun’s audio doesn’t quite stand out as much as Geometry Wars, but the pulse-pounding soundtrack does get your blood pumping and makes you want to either shoot enemies in a twin-stick shooter or consume Jello shots at a club. It’s kind of like Eurotrash music at times, but can also get really epic. It’s a strange mix in theory that winds up working in execution. The sound effects for shots and explosions are wonderful and make each upgrade seem more devastating while also making the bombs sound even more destructive. There’s a bit of voice worth thrown in as well that makes perfect use of the controller’s speaker to relay information to you about humans needing to be rescued or new enemies approaching. For whatever reason, hearing it without the game’s audio on the same track makes it seem a bit ominous – something that the robotic-sounding voice effect doesn’t need much help with.
With Resogun becoming a PS+ freebie, the issue of the game being worth its full price tag is a bit of a moot point for right now – it’s easily worth the cost of a PS+ subscription to check out, and doing so also gets you Contrast now and a truncated version of Drive Club if you stick around. However, it won’t be free forever, and it’s worth noting that it is worth the full price tag of $15. It’s one of the best-playing and easily the most fun experience on the PS4. It controls like a dream on the Dual Shock 4 and makes great use of the speaker too. Resogun has definitely lived up to the hype and is one reason everyone who buys a PS4 early will be glad they did so. It’s a short, but sweet game that is well-worth replaying on numerous difficulties and in online co-op.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This review is based on a digital copy of Resogun for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.