Pantomimes wasting some time.
In its rampant infection of every indie game everywhere, rogue-likes have now captured a representative from the twin-stick shooter genre. Atomine leans heavily on rogue-like mechanics (run based, lose your progress with each death, randomized levels/power-ups) and marries it with a sterile, clean look. That look pops in a satisfying way, with white backdrops that are a stark contrast to the greys and black and red of the levels you traverse and enemies you encounter. The same clean aesthetic helps to make the enemies and bullets stick out, rather than be hidden in details of a level.
If you decide to give Atomine a try, do yourself a favor – go into the menu and turn off the visual effects they list there. Each time you’re hit by an enemy, the screen quickly creates a fuzzy effect with static lines like an old television being out of tune before clearing your view again. Consider how aggravating, for example, the ink power up is in Mariokart, or Nintendogs assist trophy is in Smash Bros, now apply that to a twin-stick bullet hell shooter where each hit extends the time your view is obscured. Now consider this is a run-based game with perma-death that forces you to start all the way at the beginning. At first I feared there was no remedy to this frustrating flair, but thankfully I can confirm that this burden isn’t something you need to bear.
Even eliminating this needless hurdle, while Atomine’s shooter mechanics are sound, the difficulty spikes wildly depending on what weapon and upgrade drops are doled-out, what enemy types appear, and how frequently enemies end up dropping health in each level. This creates runs where you’re ill equipped for the enemies being thrown at you. Additionally, the experience just feels thin on content. While repetition is a core conceit of rogue-likes, the successful ones have varied levels, gameplay mechanics, or incremental changes that can help each run feel fresh. The variation in weapons for Atomine doesn’t change-up the core gameplay enough for it to feel new or different, and the levels aren’t varied enough to make the exploration themselves fun and engaging.
I find myself having a hard time recommending Atomine to anyone but those looking for a repetitive game and feel like the different ways in which you shoot the enemies isn’t enough to sate your interest in a twin-stick shooter. I understand there are those who appreciate the feedback loop of going through a run, seeing how far you can go, and then trying to do better in your next run, but that alone wasn’t enough to keep me engaged in this one.