The Indie Revolution has brought the gaming world countless titles inspired by yesteryear. The best retro-inspired games take aspects of the past and insert them into novel ideas, creating a product that inspires both excitement and nostalgia. The most forgettable retro-inspired games lack these novel ideas, clinging to the past in hopes of reeling in gamers on the back of reminiscence. Futuridium EP Deluxe, the revamped space-shooter from MixedBag, sadly falls into the latter camp, as it doesn’t possess the addictive and rousing elements so many independent shooters seem to have.
Futuridium EP Deluxe, at its core, is a polygonal space shooter with a heavy arcade influence. Players are tasked with destroying a set number of blue cubes on each of its fifty levels, though numerous limitations are placed upon the player to make this a more daunting task. A small energy meter in the top -right corner of the screen constantly ticks down, only increasing slightly when one shoots one or more blue cubes. The countless obstacles in each stage can cause instant death, forcing the player to restart their mission at the beginning of the stage with significantly less energy. Futuridium EP Deluxe clearly has a simple premise, but one of its biggest flaws is that it grows significantly less difficult over the course of its campaign.
If you’re trying to make a difficult game that demands perfection at every turn, then own it. Futuridium EP Deluxe starts out in an incredibly challenging fashion, essentially telling players that they’ll have to restart from scratch if they die on any given stage. The arcade influences are palpable, as advancing to a new stage requires successful completion of the previous level. If you die, well, too bad. This back-breaking difficulty puts players in a state of constant anxiety, as moving on requires one to be flawless. There’s a reason old arcade games were so addictive: they force you to give nothing other than your absolute best. Futuridium EP Deluxe demands your best for about thirty minutes before completely undermining its sublime difficulty with its bizarre reward system.
Futuridium EP Deluxe keeps track of every blue cube you destroy, all while establishing reward milestones at major cube totals. While the aesthetic skins, which change the color of the gameplay environment at the touch of a button, are somewhat neat, they aren’t exciting enough to hook players in on their own. The same goes for the additional game modes available, including a bizarre Flappy Bird clone that players can attain after destroying an ungodly amount of cubes. One would think that unlocking “Credits” that essentially serve as continues would prove to be fantastic, but they actually harm Futuridium EP Deluxe‘s biggest gameplay hook.
Being an extremely challenging space-shooter could have been Furutidium EP Deluxe‘s calling card. After all, that’s exactly what it is before one starts to unlock credits. It’s fun to try and be perfect, as this adds a clear level of tension to everything players do. However, when you have the ability to simply restart up to ten times over the course of ten levels (as Futuridium EP Deluxe doesn’t have a traditional checkpoint system), the overall proceedings begin to grow tiresome and bland. Sure, one could simply forgo the use of continues to make everything more difficult, but that’s almost the equivalent of playing with an upside-down controller. This puts the onus solely on the player to make things more difficult for themselves, meaning that Futuridium EP Deluxe‘s previously-seen challenge becomes a mere afterthought. On top of this, players can simply play each ten-level zone one at a time, rather than having to commit to an epic run. It almost feels like Futuridium EP Deluxe played things too safely by growing easier as one plays. This is nothing short of a shame, as there aren’t any other exciting gameplay hooks in place to pick up this dropped ball.
If you’ve ever played a game involving flying some sort of spacecraft, you know that space-travel, at its core, is pretty darn cool. Think about it, you’re flying a crazy future plane at insane speeds in an environment that could literally kill you instantly. As a species, we have absolutely no idea what lurks outside of our general vicinity in the universe, so there are no rules as to what could be lurking in the darkness. Futuridium EP Deluxe doesn’t succeed as a space-shooter for a very simple reason: flying your ship really isn’t all that fun. Because of its polygonal art-style, which is admittedly pretty awesome at times, players can get the feeling that their spacecraft isn’t actually moving. Small stars in the environment indicate movement, but these are too few and far between. The feeling of controlling the movement of the environment itself, as opposed to controlling the ship within the environment, breaks any sense of immersion and gives players the sense that they’re a passive participant in a world demanding active involvement. It’s hard to consider Futuridium EP Deluxe a success when it fails to capture the childlike awe of flying that titles like Star Fox 64 and Resogun manage to encapsulate so superbly.
If Futuridium EP Deluxe had more entertaining space-flight mechanics or a more difficult structure, it might be able to get away with its repetitive mission design. Unfortunately, players will have to get used to doing the same thing over and over again with little to no payoff. Every mission is exactly the same: shoot a set number of blue cubes (each of which is placed in an unchanging location), expose a yellow “core” cube, shoot the core, move on. Enemy turrets will pop up here and there, but there’s not enough change between each level to feel exciting or fresh. Later levels might be longer or require quick maneuvering using Futuridium EP Deluxe‘s lone flight gimmick (literally just turning around), but every stage feels derivative at best. Once you’ve seen a few levels, you’ve literally seen them all.
It’s worth noting that Futuridum EP Deluxe appears to lack any sort of Cross-Save functionality. Even though downloading the PlayStation 4 edition will grant players access to the Vita iteration, these two versions function as completely separate products. Futuridium EP Deluxe is the exact type of title that would thrive with seamless save synchronization across platforms, but without it, players are given zero reason to play on multiple systems.
Futuridium EP Deluxe is a bland-at-best space-shooter. Without any exciting gameplay hooks, players are left with a product that simply lacks the “fun factor” its colorful visuals would imply it has. It isn’t particularly fun to fly around, its initially-backbreaking difficulty is quickly undermined by unlockable continues, and its mission structure never changes. PSN is absolutely loaded with brilliant downloadable titles sporting some of the most unique gameplay elements seen to date. Sadly, Futuridium EP Deluxe does not stand on par with some of these gems, instead fading into the background, never to be heard from again.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4