Plagiarism is a touchy subject of late, with many indie releases taking inspiration from retro classics and forgotten gems. Most arrive to much fanfare, heralded as spiritual successors and passion projects. Others crumble under scrutiny, accused of copying ideas and artwork a little too closely.
We firmly believe it’s down to whether the property in question is still being used by the publisher, which in turn helps Debris Infinity get off scot-free – it’s a homage to Geometry Wars. Yes, that’s a property under Activision’s wing. And yes, Geometry Wars 3 is available on current-gen consoles.
But given that Activision is fixated solely on Call of Duty these days, chances of a new entry in the series are slim, which makes it more than acceptable for somebody to create a spiritual successor.
Before going further, we should clarify that Debris Infinity isn’t a complete clone. Nor is it shameless in its execution. It’s clearly inspired by Geometry Wars – that much is apparent by screenshots alone – but this twin-stick shooter brings new ideas to the table, as well as featuring its own assortment of enemy types and slightly altered core mechanics. The presentation is bolder and brasher too, using chunky text with an eye-catching metallic sheen.
High score chasing is the order of the day, using every chance available to remind of your current position on the global leaderboard. Or rather, leaderboards – Debris Infinity has three different modes, each as refined as the last.
Normal mode starts slow – usually with asteroids of varying sizes trundling across the screen, duly splitting into two – before ramping things up with more enemy types and increased spawn rates.
Rather than using the concept of lives, your pointy ship has a shield which can withstand several hits. While this may sound rather generous, it’s very easy to take two or three hits in quick succession, especially when faced with smaller enemies. There is at least a slow-mo feature to prevent this from happening, which also applies an alluring sparkly filter to the screen.
Power Wave mode is set against a ticking clock – every wave cleared adds a few extra seconds onto the timer. The waves become recognisable quickly, each having their own theme and name. Code Blue, for instance, entails a swarm of blue homing enemies while Twin Freaks puts you up against two of the bigger boss style enemies. Using smart bombs proficiently can clear entire waves instantly, racking up large combos in the process.
While this mode can prove addictive, we wish there were more wave types. It also lacks the purity of the three-minute Time Attack mode, in which it’s crucial to stay alive to increase the combo meter. Judging by the amount of jostling on the leaderboards, it’s also the most competitive mode.
For something arriving with such a modest price tag (£4.19 on Xbox One), Debris Infinity bares more than a few thoughtful options and extras. The visuals and screen layout can be customised and altered, removing the amount of bloom emitting from the vector visuals and minimising the HUD so that it doesn’t intrude or obscure the action.
Adding to this, the game over screen shows your accuracy along with a heat map (for want of a better description) which illustrates movement patterns. If you’re hoping to break the top ten, this is more useful than it may sound.
With its stylish presentation, a bounty of modes (including a two-player option), and an array of smartly implemented options, Debris Infinity is an easy recommendation. It isn’t quite as masterful as Geometry Wars 2, which feels more fluid and has a smoother learning curve, but it’s mighty close. The closest any developer has come this generation, certainly. The low entry point seals the deal.