Energy Invasion is the latest game from Sometimes You, a developer and publisher who has published a number of games in the last six months. The theme I get from the games they publish is ‘easy to play but hard to master’ as most of the games look very simple from the outside but once you start playing them you realise how brutal they can be. Energy Invasion is no different, it takes two beloved gameplay mechanics and mixes them together with an interesting, original soundtrack and creates an unusual new spin on the ‘Arkanoid’/’Breakout’ format. So, does this game entertain you as much as smashing a wall with a sledgehammer, or is it as much fun as Dale Winton hurdling a massive wall at you with a tiny hole cut into it? Let’s find out and, Bring on the wall!!
Energy Invasion is a mixture of two gameplay mechanics, as I mentioned above. We have a standard Brick Breaking mechanic like you see in games such as Arkanoid and Breakout – for those who have never played these, they consist of you controlling a small ‘paddle’ (line/ship/bar) at the bottom of the screen and you can only move left or right. You begin the game by throwing a ball off the paddle, this ball proceeded to bounce around the walls as it engages ‘bricks’ above your paddle. As the ball hits the ‘Bricks’ they will either get destroyed or start to wear down until none are left and you move to the next level. The main gameplay aspect is that you can’t allow the ball to fall past your paddle at the bottom of the screen.
Secondly, we have a ‘twin-stick’ mechanic. I’m sure most of you will have heard of this, but once again if you haven’t – Usually in a twin-stick mechanic game, you move your character/ship/object around with the left stick and depending on which direction you point your right stick, the ‘thing’ you are controlling will fire in said location. This mechanic is very popular in top-down shoot-em-up games like JYDGE, Geometry Wars and Enter the Gungeon. Energy Invasion uses both of these mechanics in a slightly different format to standard games, yet I’m sure fans of both of these will easily pick it up.
So, I know what you’re thinking – “Stop Teasing us, tell us how the mechanics work if they are similar yet different!” – Basically, The game has three modes but I’ll ignore those for now and talk in general terms. The game is set up like Arkanoid/Breakout, you have a paddle which you move and blocks placed above you which you must hit in order to destroy them. You use the left stick to control your paddle and you can either press X or push the right stick UP in order to launch your first ball. When I first played this, I got confused – I was bouncing the ball all over the blocks and nothing was breaking, this is where the twin-stick mechanical comes in place. as your ball is bouncing around, you use the right stick to fire projectiles… from the ball. So, unlike twin-stick games, the object that is firing isn’t the object you control with the left stick, it’s the initial projectile you launched.
Another mechanic the game comes with but executes in a different way is power-ups. In standard games, you see the power-ups and you collect them – in terms of Arkanoid, you would collect them with your paddle. In Energy Invasion you don’t actually see the power-ups, they just randomly activate. The ones I’ve noticed are; Your paddle grows bigger, a red barrier appears and blocks your ball from falling, you shoot much faster for a few seconds, your bullets freeze, and your bullets slow down. Some of these come in handy as you don’t only have blocks that take one hit, some of them can take up to four hits to fully destroy.
You may be thinking, “That sounds easy, why did you say it was hard” – well, if you play on normal then there are a few things you need to be wary of;
1. You have to be constantly mindful of where you paddle is, where the initial ball is and where the blocks are that you are aiming for – don’t let the ball come back down and fall into the hole
2. You can hold a direction on the Right Stick, but bullets are once every one or two seconds, so you won’t always be very accurate
3. On Normal, some levels have enemies who are firing projectiles at your paddle which you must be constantly dodging whilst being aware of everything above, and
4. Some of the levels, as explained below, move – so there is that to worry about as well.
There are three gameplay modes in the game. The first is called ‘Invasion’ and consists of 25 levels which are pretty much what I’ve already explained. The blocks are stationary, you must bounce the ball around and destroy all the blocks by shooting them. There are no time limits and you gain extra lives quite easily due to racking up points. On easy the enemies appear but they don’t shoot or even get in the way, on normal they will appear on various levels and offer a real challenge to the game – however, there is no trophy or requirement to play on anything above easy and I’m not sure how much it affects your score (as there is an online leaderboard – Which I’m currently #1 on )
‘Linear’ mode is made up of another 25 levels and this is the mode which caused me the most trouble, even on Easy. The gameplay is almost identical to Invasion only this time the bricks are constantly moving down slowly. So, with the delay in shooting and the constant moving bricks, you can find yourself dying quite a lot on this stage. Also, regardless of if you have 50 lives or just 5, if the bricks reach the bottom of the screen then it’s game over. In any mode, if you die by the bricks touching the bottom or you run out of lives, you are given the chance to return to the main menu or continue with a ‘penalty’ – I’m not quite sure what this is, I think it may take points from you, but it lets you continue where you died. If you return to the main menu then you have to start at level one again.
Finally, we have ‘Endless’ mode. This mode pretty much does what it says on the tin – it is an endless version of Invasion mode – the bricks are all stationary, the enemies will or won’t attack based on your difficulty setting and this one has no limit on the number of levels. Although, to get the trophy for this mode you only have to get up to level 30. Due to the nature of it having no time limit and no enemies (if you play on easy) – this mode can be quite relaxing or played in short bursts if you have a little bit of time free, as you aim to beat the high scores on the leaderboard.
Graphically the game is nice, it’s nothing special but it is a nice looking game with decent effects. The physics of hitting the ball doesn’t feel ‘right’ though. If you hit the ball from the corner of your paddle it just acts as if you hit it from the centre. Some of you may not understand this, but if you have played a brick breaking game before, it doesn’t have the precise rebound physics which you would expect in games like this. It’s still 100% playable, just not as easy to plan out the direction you want your main projectile to move in as you hit it on the rebound.
Now to talk about the elephant in the room which I have left until last, the music. The music has been created by ‘Nick R 61’ and you can tell it is an important part of the game as it even gives credit to the artist before the game has loaded up, during the title cards. The music is a collection of rather energetic dubstep tracks which are quite good. It’s not my kind of music so I can’t say too much about it, but when I was playing it, the music did seem quite relevant to the game with all the effects and colours that are being used and thrown around – at times I felt like getting up and having a mini-rave in my living room! However, there is an issue with volume levels. If you are streaming via your PS4 or recording then you will get the levels perfect but the next song will be a lot louder, then it will return to being quiet again. This isn’t helped by the fact there is no in-game volume slider – only the option to turn the music on or off. It’s a shame because if the levels were even and there was the option to adjust the levels in-game then the music would have been more enjoyable for myself and it would be a lot more adaptable for streamers and YouTubers.
Energy Invasion is a fun brick-breaking game with a really energetic soundtrack. It took me around four hours to achieve the platinum but I can see myself playing it again on my Vita to try and beat the high scores on the leaderboard. The volume control was an issue for me but others may not find that as off-putting as the soundtrack itself is pretty good. I would recommend playing the game on Normal until you really get stuck as having the enemies attack gives the game more of a challenge. If you like twin-sticks, brick-breaking or easy platinum games then you should check this out! (Looking on PSNProfiles, it looks like the Vita and PS4 share the same platinum – so no double dipping this time around)
- Fun gameplay which combines two beloved gameplay mechanics
- Ability to put on 'Normal' to instantly create more of a challenge
- Graphically the game looks good with all the effects
- The music really pumps you up and gets you in the mood
- Easy platinum
- No volume slider and music levels are inconsistent
- Ball physics don't seem to be as good as they should be in this type of game
- Randomness of the power-ups make some levels luck-based