Arcade shooters have been a staple comeback genre for quite some time now and the same goes in the indie games industry too. If you take a close look at itch.io or steam you will quite easily realize that a lot of indie titles are platformers and next up arcade shooters. All try to stand out in their own unique way but few manage to do so. Today we take a closer look at the recently released in Early Access, Dimension Drive which was developed by studio 2AwesomeGuys.
First and foremost, I must note at this point this is a review that was prepared after having tried the game in its latest Early Access build, so players can obviously expect more than the content that will be criticized here as well as a lot of fixes to various problems.
We first saw this game at Gamescom 2016 (where we also interviewed the devs) and after a successful run on Kickstarter, Dimension Drive came to Steam on Early Access with enough content to tease of what great things are coming later. Following the footsteps of a proper Early Access release, Dimension Drive warns us of various bugs and issues that may arise due to the game not being finalized yet so I started it up expecting all sorts of issues that would probably annoy me. To my surprise, I will tell you in advance that I saw no game-breaking issues, so we’re off to a good start with reviewing Dimension Drive.
The story of the game is probably something we should mention real fast so that we can get it out of the way. It is more or less of no importance and although the characters are all drawn quite nicely, in my eyes they were literally working as placeholders for a game that wanted to showcase as much of its gameplay gimmicks as it possibly can. We basically have control of Jackelyne, a fancy-haired girl who has more style and courage than any other pilot I know can muster. Together with her trusted AI of her starship, called the Manticore, she roams around various planets trying to fight off, what seems to be, an alien invasion of some sorts that has all sorts of connections to our character. I do not want to spoil much but there is not too much to spoil anyway. Some good twists here and there, but do not expect a too interesting plot.
The theme comes well together because of the implemented storyline and it definitely adds that extra note that would otherwise be missing from the big picture that makes up this gimmicky arcade shooter game. Space, AI with a bit of humour and lots of girl power. Cannot say no to that right?
But what do I mean when I say gimmicky? Let me just put it this way; you have not played anything like Dimension Drive before. It is different to the extent that you will probably die ten to fifteen times before you get used to certain mechanics. The Manticore boasts a marvelous achievement of technological prowess called the Dimension Drive (get it? It’s like the title of the game, heh.) With this Drive, we get to shift our ship from one screen to another, essentially changing dimensions/positions in order to get out of danger. Paired up with the energy system for firing your guns, that only recharges if you are out of that dimension, the gameplay gets complicated really fast with just a few mechanics.
Even the score system is so well done that only the most expert of pilots can use to its maximum potential in order to get on top of the global leaderboards. If your energy gets below 30/100, then your score multiplier resets. If you get hit, your score multiplier resets. If you die, your score multiplier resets, but you probably already expected that last one.
Just like most games of its genre though, content is key and although Dimension Drive does not have too much of that just yet, it gives us a very good idea of what we can expect in the future. With two worlds being currently available (four stages in each), we get to experience how difficult the game can be, even on the normal difficulty. You can currently play the game on Normal (four shields) and Hard (no shields, if you get hit, you die). There will be two more difficulties implemented in the game later, which will be higher than Hard apparently. Normal though, was super hard on its own. You can check our playthrough below to get a rough idea of how hard the game can be.
The main problem you find when you first start playing the game, is actually managing to keep track of what is happening on both screens and timing your dimension shifts appropriately. A single wall hit can kill you, even in normal mode, so you do not want to be porting into a meteorite. The game difficulty scaling was kind of, off the hook at certain points, especially in a certain level which I had to replay about twenty times. I constantly felt as if there were very important checkpoints missing in that level. I actually rage quitted at a certain point.
Visually the game is quite well done. Most things make sense and are clear enough even during very crowded fights. The only complaint I have about this is that some meteorites’ opacity is in such a way that it is sometimes hard to tell if you are going to teleport into a rock or not. The game’s story cutscenes all look very good too though and I would definitely buy into a Jackelyne statue if the company ever made one (collector’s edition? hint, hint..)
The sound and music was unfortunately my least liked part of the game, since not only was it a bit flat but also, in a game like this, where the music has to be repetitive, it gets quite tiring or at least boring to listen to again and again. I am sure the studio will be coming up with more visual and aural backgrounds for their upcoming levels, so we will just have to wait and see what we are getting.
I put so much effort into this, I was not even surprised when I saw I got first place on the leaderboards.
The game also has multiplayer, which I suggest you avoid if you want to keep your friendships healthy. If single player is five times harder than I expected it to be, then multiplayer is about ten in comparison. If the other player is playing Dimension Drive for the first time, it will take them quite a bit of time to get used to the shifting mechanic, but not only that, they also have to get used to seeing both of the starships there, which makes it even more confusing. Definitely enjoyable if you are looking for a hard co-op challenge but not if you want a casual arcade shooter experience with a friend. Biggest problem though is that if one dies, both die. So watch out for those big space rocks.
Last but not least, the game features a bi-weekly challenge stage that changes every two weeks. You can go through it in order to immortalize your name on the leaderboards, but for now it mostly just acts as extra content and a very nice promise from the devs that the game will be updated on a regular basis.
Dimension Drive is available on Early Access on Steam, PC and Linux, for the price of 12,99€.
Dimension Drive was a good arcade shooter experience with a very unique mechanic that really gave me a challenge and kept me interested in going deeper into the game and into more of its difficult stages. There are still a few things missing from the game, but since it is Early Access, we can only wait in anticipation as to what we will be seeing in its future.
+ Very, VERY challenging. Maybe harder than one would expect it to be.
+ The gameplay mechanic of Dimension shifting is new and very interesting.
+ The game’s visuals are all very well done and give it a nice theme and overall feeling.
– Sounds and music feel a bit flat.
– As much as I love co-op games, this is a hard one. Almost too hard.
– Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis