Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Scintillatron 4096 (PS4)

Scintillate. To throw off sparks or flash. That is the dictionary meaning of the aforementioned word. Looking back at my playthrough of kFunction Limited's debut shoot'em up it's quite the fitting title piece if I do say so myself. When I first began playing "Scintillatron 4096" I could see with little effort what the title and game were inspired by. The neon particle effects, and neon colored details of the tunnel-like environment in which the waves you shoot through are displayed really pushed that point home. It was something akin to the futuristic neon lit Noir setting of Bladerunner, While I understood the theme, and liked the visual presentation along with the pulse pounding electronic soundtrack I was admittedly a little confused at first with the gameplay before me though, but that confusion came from me being a dufus, and not paying full attention to the clear directions I was given from the initial onscreen tutorial. It turns out this retro-future inspired take on the shmup genre has it's own unique combo and power-up mechanics. Nothing revolutionary, mind you, but definitely something different.

Unlike most combo based twin stick shooters "Scintillatron 4096" has you achieving combos by shooting a sequence of two different colored particles in the most efficient way possible. I did say "particles", btw. The underlying theme is that of an atomic or sub-atomic one, and has you banking the big point values by shooting, in order, all the yellow or pink glowing atomic particles. All while dodging various spark sapping sub-atomic hazards, and the constantly pursuing particles themselves. Wave after wave you will basically move your tiny aiming target in front of, beside or behind the main particles, and enemy targets for targeting advantage while they follow your lead as you shoot them into pixel dust with various power-up oriented shot types. As you do so additional power-ups will appear randomly on the given board that will either complicate or aid in your high scoring goal to some degree.

It's a fairly straightforward premise with the usual end goal. That end goal being a place on the highest rank of the global/local leaderboards. By completing the increasingly more populated panes filled with particles, obstacles, and power-up enhancements you'll earn leaderboard standings that range from highest wave completed to the biggest combo achiever, and even the highest score holder. Perfection is key though, and in order to achieve perfection in each wave you must not only beat the timer, and avoid the Hurry Up spark (a 1hit kill to you), but must also not drop a combo sequence until all particles, and enemy targets are gone. Each wave comes with an allotted combo total that must be fully met for the 1up perfection bonus at the end tally screen. A tally screen that takes in account various feats of prowess including speed runs, combo counts, and efficiency among other things. It goes without saying that perfecting each wave's playthrough will most certainly earn you that top leaderboard listing if you can achieve it each wave, and pick up all the point multipliers that appear. The catch is that the randomized power-ups, particularly the score multipliers, will give participating players a different way to top the base perfect scores. It adds a randomized variable to score achievement, and makes it possible to do more than simply perfect your combo focused playthrough.

The Modes of Play ...

Modes in "Scintillatron 4096" are both single, and two player oriented. There's a singleplayer mode tied to the global/local leaderboards, and two different 2 player modes that are local only experiences. I, personally, was only able to test out the singleplayer mode, and from what I saw it was a noteworthy shmup experience from a studio just getting into the genre. It offered a new twist on an old formula with a 3D visual presentation that was quite impressive. Not only is it visual, audibly, and functionally enjoyable/impressive, but it has the replay value you want from such a game. In the way of local competition I assume the two player co-op, and the two player battle modes will be the type of experiences for in house party fun. Co-op in two player mode will no doubt have players sharing lives as they try to collectively reach a high score together. The two player battle mode on the other hand will likely be a head to head competition in some format, possibly split screen, with the beating of the other players' score being the main focus. I don't doubt players will get the same waves with the same scoring opportunities to be fair. That is all speculation though. Take it with a grain of salt ...

The Verdict ...

Being limited in what I could play I still found the simplicity, and interesting twists of "Scintillatron 4096" to be impressive enough to recommend. Collectively the visual aesthetics, and electronic soundtrack really came together quite nicely. In the end though you do have to understand it's a budget indie. A budget indie with good replay value, especially if you like the challenge that a global leaderboard presents. As far as challenge goes this simple looking game is made super challenging by the classic Space Invaders style movement, and the base Space Invaders style shooting. It's all about precision targeting, and how best to approach each wave you encounter. You'll also have to mind which power-ups you pick up, because things like reverse movement, and particle magnetism can work against your efforts. Thankfully the game gives you a power-up breakdown with icons included for reference sake. When it comes to my final verdict "Scintillatron 4096" earns it's place among my growing recommended list. From a price to value perspective it's a good enough deal, especially for all the shoot'em up fans out there who are looking for a new fix!

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