Twin-stick shooters seem to be thriving these days, with a number of indie developers providing their take on the genre. But sometimes the smallest of examples can make a big difference, like with Panda Indie Soft’s Null Drifter. What looks like a simplistic 1-bit style take on Geometry Wars is, in fact, a whole lot more. In fact, it’s hard to step away long enough to write a review when it’s this damn addictive.
A simple premise, but hardly a simple game
In Null Drifter, you guide a spaceship through an enclosed field, where enemies come flying in all directions. They start out simply enough, but soon you’re introduced to bosses that throw all kinds of bullets and shockwaves at you. Using a little dash move, you must somehow dodge these attacks and plow them with enough bullets in an effort to survive. Good luck with that.
But there are two things that make Null Drifter stand out. The first is the progression system, which is rather cool. Using currency that you pick up over the course of the game, you can actually level up your ship with better gunfire, speed, and more. These make a big difference as you continue to try and build up your score.
The second is that your dash technique isn’t just a defensive move. You can actually dash your way into enemies and destroy a good portion of them, with a “Nice!” reward for your effort. You can also chain these together and earn some more points by taking out two opponents in the same shot. It can take some practice, but it’s a wonderful technique that makes survival a little more possible than you might expect.
Challenging as time goes on
The thing about Null Drifter is how it increases in difficulty as you go on. Sure, you get some weird messages as a result; but you also see how well your progress builds up. It’s really cool to see the screen load up with weird boss characters that throw everything they can at you. It’s also quite challenging, adding on to the game’s replay value.
It’s honestly nuts how compelling it feels digging deeper into Null Drifter and becoming a force to be reckoned with. A lot of twin-stick shooters can’t hold up their end of the bargain mainly because you feel turned off by not really getting anywhere. But this simple little shooter grew on me like nobody’s business. It’s actually quite shocking.
This presentation goes a long way
One other great aspect to Null Drifter is how a presentation with minimal effort can really grow on you. Despite the fact that the game looks like something built on a low-level computer, it’s intriguing stuff.
That’s mainly due to the offbeat enemy and boss design. Out of nowhere, you may be battling a giant eyeball or squid or whatever, with no genuine beef with you, trying to kill you with imaginative attacks. These are conveyed equally well, leaving an effect that will mesmerize you – even with the simplicity.
There’s also something to be said about the groovy filters in the game. True, some of them can be a headache. Others, however, are worth the unlock, and will remind you of retro greatness of old. These are very cool.
Finally, the soundtrack is really out there. It’s got a mix of contemporary tunes combined with some catchy dance rhythms that match up with the in-game action surprisingly well. Turn up the volume for these tunes, you won’t want to miss them.
Way more than zero
In the end, if you’re a fan of twin-stick shooters or just want something you can truly feel you’re building with, then Null Drifter is the game for you. It’s a blast to play and gives you the forward progress you need to continue onward; and its presentation is definitely in its own league, not to mention a lot of fun. For the low asking price (like $4), this is one game you definitely should be zeroing in on.
A terrific twin-stick shooter that will take you by surprise.