If you love twin-stick shooters, then this is a great time to be playing video games. After reaching perfection with the release of Smash TV in the early 90s, the genre faded away for more than a decade before Bizarre Creations brought it back with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Since then, a ridiculous number of twin-stick shooters have been produced, and the control scheme has even been co-opted by a growing number of roguelikes. Basically, you can’t swing a dead hedgehog at a game convention without hitting a developer showing off their new twin-stick title.
Into this crowded fray comes We Are Doomed, the first PC/console game from Vertex Pop.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Version Played)
Publisher: Vertex Pop
Developer: Vertex Pop
Genre: Dreamy Twin-Stick Shooter
Release Date: April 14, 2015 (PC, PS4), April 17, 2015 (Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
As a twin-stick shooter, a long-winded explanation for We Are Doomed isn’t really needed. Players will control a tiny ship and guide its movements with the left stick while aiming its gun with the right stick. If you love that type of game, you’ll surely find something worthwhile in We Are Doomed. But the title also does some interesting things with its audio soundtrack and visuals that are worth mentioning.
Anybody who has seen We Are Doomed in motion probably wondered if the developer nicked its abstract graphical style from Geometry Wars. And they wouldn’t exactly be wrong. Mobeen Fikree (the sole developer behind Vertex Pop) is the first to admit the game’s glitchy style owes a debt to Bizarre’s baby as well as to the games of Jeff Minter. But rather than using wireframe geometric shapes, We Are Doomed features an art style that looks more like paper cutouts. Everything from the enemies to the outline of the player’s Laserbeam have very defined colors and shapes, exactly how they’d look if you gave a child a bunch of construction paper and told them to go wild. It’s a neat design trick, and while it’s very reminiscent of Geometry Wars, it’s rather unique in its own way.
I also like that the sharp edges of the enemies contrast nicely with the very relaxing music found on the game’s soundtrack. The soothing beats have that dreamy quality you’ll find in a lot of puzzle games, but rarely in a frantic shooter like We Are Doomed. Yes, the game flips your expectations a second time by hiding a very tough challenge behind simple graphics and chill music.
The flamethrower-like Laserbeam is the only weapon available, but a huge number of enemies will chase players back and forth across the screen in both of the game’s modes (the level-based Waves and the neverending Endless mode). The playing field is packed with enemies that eat up valuable screen real estate (deadly asteroids and “Perimeter Baddies” worth zero points also crowd out your tiny ship). Your only hope is to collect Trinkets, glowing cubes that will charge up your powerful Superbeam. Triggering this special weapon is very satisfying, but it doesn’t make you invincible, adding to We Are Doomed’s frantic feel. You always have to be on your toes.
We Are Doomed’s biggest negative is actually a matter of bad timing. Initially released in a scaled-down version for the PC last Spring, Vertex Pop began beefing it up for a PS4, Xbox One, and Steam launch in 2015. Unfortunately, Lucid Games announced and released Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions in that gap, and followed it up with a substantial update that nearly doubled the size of the game just weeks before We Are Doomed’s release. With only 30 levels, Vertex Pop’s game can’t help but look small in comparison.
That said, We Are Doomed is still an excellent twin-stick shooter, and its tricky levels, unique visuals, and cool audio complement each other very well. The game is well worth the investment for any fan of the genre.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of We Are Doomed was provided by Vertex Pop for the purposes of this review.