It keeps going and going and going...
The modern perspective on gaming seems to demand that where a mechanic exists, there is a roguelite permutation of that mechanic. Cycle 28 on a surface level feels quite similar to classic space shooters like Sinistar. Its roguelite elements and an attempt at deeper narrative promise to allow this basic gameplay to evolve into something a bit deeper.
If you’ve ever played Asteroids, you’ll immediately grasp the controls of Cycle 28. The ZR button accelerates your vessel in whichever direction it is facing while the A button fires. The goal is simply to get better and better high scores. Higher scores earn you upgrades that can make your progress a bit easier. You can have two of these upgrades equipped at any one time, and they carry over from run to run. Some of them are about what you would expect and upgrade the power or spread of your weapon. More interestingly, some increase your ship’s ability to spawn small attack drones, which can help out as more and more powerful enemies arrive on the screen.
Cycle 28 presents a nice variety of enemy ships to do combat with. From fighters of similar size and armament to yourself to larger carriers that launch literal swarms of drones, a new enemy is always waiting for you as you survive longer and longer. Visually, all of these ships are represented by simple, solid-colored shapes. All enemies are tan, with your own ship being blue. These colors stand out vibrantly from the black of space and contrast well with each other. This makes for a non-confusing experience whether docked or playing on the go, even when things get chaotic.
As you progress further, Cycle 28’s story develops through short lines of text at the beginning of each run. The story plays with the idea of being aware of the endlessly repeating gameplay. Unfortunately, the story never develops to the level of complexity that seems to be pitched by Cycle 28’s eShop listing which encourages you to “solve the mystery of Cycle 28.” The stale, slow, and visually uninteresting reveal of the plot is unlikely to drive most players to play what amounts to the same simple arcade experience for an extended amount of time.
When it comes right down to it, Cycle 28’s gameplay rarely exceeds its arcade-housed forefathers. It attempts to develop its gameplay into something more, and while honorable, this effort is mostly fruitless. The unlockable upgrade system does add some mild drive to push the player forward, but odds are it won’t be enough to keep you playing throughout the entire story. If you are looking for a retro, arcade shooter, there is a reasonably solid experience here, but don’t expect anything more.