If you’re going to crib something, it pays to crib from the best. This horizontal space shooter certainly doesn’t make a mistake there, borrowing heavily from genre high notes R-Type and Gradius. Created by an ex-Ubisoft employee, it has its own ideas too, helping to overstep grounds for plagiarism.

Like those officially cited sources, Rigid Force Redux isn’t a bullet hell shooter. It’s far less chaotic and way more considered, to the point where it’s possible to complete all six stages without missing a single enemy. The range of enemy types is exemplary, with many unique to their home planets. Some group together and swirl around in formation, catching you off guard and being tricky to target, while others are simply slow-moving cannon fodder.

The ship’s pace automatically adjusts, making a swift descent when landing on a planet and slowing down to cautiously enter indoor locations, be it an ice cave or a disused base. All six stages are designed to test skills in different ways. The ice world has falling stalagmites to avoid and walls of ice to blast through, while the lava cave features pistons that require decent timing to evade, as well as a short vertically scrolling section.

Memorising attack patterns and exploiting weak points during boss battles are just the tip of the iceberg – as shooters go, this one is surprisingly multifaceted.

The ship’s arsenal allows for a great deal of experimentation, with three different upgradable projectile types available, and additional satellites which can be positioned forward or behind. Enemies also drop sparkly green shards which can be absorbed and used for a temporary firepower increase – which successfully gives the illusion of being untouchable – and to power a bullet-absorbing swirling sword. There are plenty of instances, such as the fourth boss, where it’s essential to have a constant supply of power to absorb incoming fire. If you haven’t mastered this ability by then, you’ll likely find the difficulty level peaks at this point.  

As brilliant as it is to have a variety of weapons, formations, and a counter ability to play around with it does come at a cost of intuitiveness – no less than five buttons are used on the joypad, which leads to some fumbling early on. Thankfully the opening stages allow for teething troubles, slowly building up to bigger events. It’s always clear when you’re taking damage – your blue-skinned android co-pilot shouts dramatically – which assists in learning where you may be going wrong. If you find yourself taking damage or dying in the same area, then it’s probably time for a new tactic.

On ‘easy mode’ Rigid Force Redux offers an accessible experience that’s challenging but never punishing. Three lives are at your disposal, and as the ship can withstand three hits, there’s plenty of leeway for error. Later bosses can see your continue stockpile swiftly shrink – a pleasing sign of the game’s scaling difficulty. Playing through the Arcade Mode – which has a score multiplier, a handful of spacemen to rescue, and online leaderboards – will bestow extra continues for the main campaign, giving a reason to dive in and out. There’s also a time-based Boss Rush Mode with intervals where you can try to obtain the perfect loadout.

All three modes complement each other, each offering something different. It’s also pleasing to see that the harder modes don’t simply make enemies more resilient to bullets – there are new hazards too. Obtaining that aforementioned perfect run will take considerable time and effort, and there are plenty of challenging achievements to unlock along the way, some of which require a different approach such as finishing a stage without shooting. There’s certainly a lot to crack on with.

Visually it’s moderately impressive, full of alluring glowing laser blasts and large bosses of both the mechanical and organic variety. Backdrops are busy but never distract, although there are a few instances where it’s hard to tell the background and foreground apart. Some music tracks are more upbeat than others, which is fine because they all suit their settings, be it a desolate desert or a foray into enemy turf. The menus are bold and bright, meanwhile, favouring chunky text. This pleases our ageing eyes greatly, as does the fact that the bullets are both easy to see and dodge.

Rigid Force Redux is always challenging but never overwhelming, a fact which we can put down not just to excellent design but the telling signs it received a great deal of playtesting. While it may have benefited from an additional stage (or two), this would have been at the risk of diluting the experience. Just like a dying star, this shooter shines brightly.

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