Friday, January 6, 2012

P-3 (XBLIG): "A Petri Dish Based Twin Thumbstick Shmup"

It seems these days that shmups (shoot 'em ups) are becoming a trend in the game development community. I have actually seen quite a few indie game developers creating their own unique take on the shmup genre. I have absolutely no problem with this. In fact I think it's about time some new shmups were released. The fact that the indie games I speak of are really affordable only sweetens the deal. I have recently found a rather impressive version of the top-down/dual thumbstick shmup genre. The indie game I'm talking about is titled "P-3", and was developed by 'BatCat Games'. The game is visually brilliant, and features a defense style gameplay with a sort of scientific plot. As the gamer you get to control a nano-ship, and protect a nucleus from bacteria within a virtual petri dish. That may sound a little strange, but it really isn't.

BatCat Games designed 'P-3' as a visually stunning shooter that uses the concept of nano-technology. The playing field within 'P-3' is a virtual petri dish that contains a nucleus, and constantly attacking bacteria. Your goal is to protect the nucleus from 14 waves of bacteria that get increasingly more difficult to eradicate as you make progress. The enemies/bacteria within the virtual petri dish have a resemblance to bacteria you'd find in the real world making 'P-3' truly stand out from other similar medical based shmups. As you play 'P-3' you'll find that each bacteria within the game attacks differently, and must be dealt with in different ways. Your main weapon against the bacteria attackers is upgradeable gunfire, and mines (via power-ups) that can be obtained from destroyed bacteria cells. The bacteria cells also provide energy once they are killed. That energy can be collected to power the nucleus up, and keep it alive. P-3 is more of a defense style game, so your focus will be on destroying the bacteria attackers as they try to harm the nucleus located at the center of the petri dish.

The controls in 'P-3' are very user-friendly. As the gamer you will be mainly focusing on movement (Left Thumbstick), and shooting (Right Thumbstick). There is also a button for laying the mine power-ups (Right Bumper), and a button for a special attack (A) that can be used to briefly clear the petri dish of bacteria. Auto-fire can simply be set by pressing the (Right Trigger). I found the actual gameplay in 'P-3' to be very inviting. The nano-ship responded quite well to the controls, and everything in the game moved smoothly without any glitches. I noticed that as I defeated each wave of bacteria in 'P-3' the enemies would become more numerous, aggressive, and increasingly more difficult to defeat. The developer mentioned to me that there were two boss bacteria in the game. Unfortunately I was unable to make it that far due to the intense nature of the game, but I'm sure they are there. P-3 is by no means a game that you can just breeze through, but the fact that you can collect extra life power-ups from some of the dead bacteria definitely helps out.

In conclusion I found 'P-3' to be a somewhat impressive shmup. It had a lot going for it, but it wasn't a home run title. Even so I liked how the developer incorporated highscores into the game. It's always a nice feature to have for any shmup. The absence of online leaderboards was a little bit of a letdown though. When it comes to replay value this game doesn't really stand out as something I'd revisit too often. I did suggest to the developer that they might want to add a survival mode without the nucleus which would definitely improve the game's replay value. The developer stated that they thought my suggestion was good, so maybe they'll make a future patch with this feature in it. The game's current state keeps me from giving it really high praise, but with everything considered 'P-3' is still a good shmup. It offers unique gameplay that is visually impressive. If you're into shmups like I am then I definitely suggest getting this game.

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