Cyber Punk Madness
Atomine is a fast-paced, rogue-like twin stick shooter loosely based on the true events surrounding STUXNET, the first discovered malware targeting industrial computer systems. The player model, named Atomine is likewise a computer virus, going around, statistically growing and facing firewall-like enemies in an effort to infect and successfully take over a nuclear missile control system.
Overall, the game plays great, the controls couldn’t be simpler and are very tight. With only 2 sticks to control – the left for moving around, the other to direct your weapon – it’s easy to lose yourself in the action-packed gameplay. The levels are procedurally generated for maximum replayability and are composed of translucent blocks representing physical boundaries set on a plane, which ensure the player never loses sight of Atomine during the run. This works excellent, with enemies going around frantically shooting at you, you can take cover behind some of the walls and columns while taking aim or position yourself to unload a volley of deadly fire on an unsuspecting enemy.
Gunning down your enemies with an unlimited number of bullets and picking up the experience loot they drop increases your current version, which in turn allows you to upgrade your modules. The modular aspect of this game gives the player the freedom to outfit their Atomine whichever way they like, by increasing their rate of fire, type and number of bullets and more. Be sure to act quickly though, as the dropped loot disappears quickly when left unattended – something which can be quite tricky when facing a spray of bullets from multiple enemies coming for you. Every level has bonus rooms which are not required to be visited in order to finish the level, one containing a large experience boost, the other a data hub of sorts which allows you to switch between unlocked modules suitable to your current model, and once the current version has been leveled-up, deploy a new module. Apart from running and gunning, these modules bring a strategic element to the game which furthermore allow the player to change up their run-through every single time the game is loaded. The boss battles are challenging though not overly punishing and provide a nice mix-up in strategy throughout the game.
“Practice makes perfect”
With its rogue-like nature there’s only 1 life to live and this game is tough as nails. Although some of the enemies will drop energy loot to help you survive that much longer, once your energy-level reaches zero, it is game over and all those modules you unlocked during your run-through? Gone. This game is addictive in that it requires the player to play over and over again till the attack and defense patterns are laid bare and a solid acquaintance is established with the current Atomine and outfitted modules; in short, master the levels, their enemies, and intricacies and successfully infect the target source code. While having to start afresh, in the main menu though, you’ll find that once unlocked modules will forever be available, though in your next run-through your version is reset and you’ll have to build your model from scratch. While in the module menu you can spend your hard-earned in-game currency to unlock some of the modules and speed up the process. The different Atomine models though unique in their statistics such as speed, energy, and compatible modules, are a basic approach to character design, as are the different enemies going around. While challenging, the enemies have little to no personality to them, which could have been more exploited. An absolute miss-out is a multiplayer mode. Playing this game on the Switch in co-op mode would have been absolutely fantastic.
“Stellar Aesthetics & Sound”
Atomine running on the Nintendo Switch is an absolute treat with impressive visual effects, fitting sound bites, and an audio track that is not easy to forget. The techy feeling is brought about by its basic building blocks, overlaid with computational code and binary fragments. The player has the option to turn on the glitch effect, glitching the screen once hit. Some levels show their physical boundaries from the start, while others are built-up by passing through the level without ever becoming a distraction. With some minor frame-drops and an occasional enemy getting stuck, jittering through an opening in a wall the game is far from perfect, something which can hopefully be patched out soon. While bringing nothing new, the sounds effects while firing or being hit, really add to the overall experience, as does the computer voice directing you as you go. While the electronic background music fits the game very well, it can become somewhat monotonous after multiple (failed) run-throughs, something which a few additional tracks could easily remedy.
Atomine manages to impress both in aesthetics as well as in gameplay. It is fast paced, action-packed, engaging, rewarding, and can be exceedingly frustrating. While there are many twin stick shooters out there, Atomine shines and is a definite must buy for any action-junky, trigger-happy cyber punk, and anyone looking for a rogue-lite challenge with tons of unlockables.