It was Rare’s first game – way back when they were known as Ultimate – so it’s apt that it’s their first Xbox Live Arcade effort. Clocking in at 400 Microsoft points it’s good value for money too, offering the 1983 Spectrum original, a jazzed up remake and an online multiplayer mode. In 1983 you’d probably be burned on a stake and labelled a witch for even thinking about playing a game against someone halfway around the world.
Despite the vast visual improvements and slightly bigger levels, the gameplay is unchanged – collect spaceship parts and return them to the docking bay, then collect enough fuel to blast off to the next planet. And all of this has to be done while avoiding bizarre enemies, keeping an eye on the clock and increasing your fire power. The enemies start off rather harmless, simply walking across the screen from left to right, but later ones split into smaller units when shot and spin around in hard to predict circles. By this time though your laser should be able to shoot in all different directions. Like Geometry Wars Evolved, it’s definitely a game that you can get ‘in the zone’ with.
Multiplayer is good clean – if simplistic – fun. There are enough parts on each level to build two space shuttles, but not enough fuel. So it’s a race for the fuel tanks, essentially.
There are some nice particle effects, and we’re rather fond of the EMP (read: smart bomb) that sets off a huge ripple backed up a suitably grand sound effect. The graphics are a little too good though: when playing online, the glitter – for want of a better word – that sprays out of the jetpac can obscure enemies and objects of importance. Apart from that, it’s a solid shooter that’s well worth the download.