Inversus is a fast and frantic multiplayer shooter whose spartan graphics are as much a part of its gameplay as they are its striking aesthetic. But is its original take on the genre enough to make it a sure-fire hit?
The first thing I have to give props to Inversus for is its name. It reflects the game's visual style as well as summing up the nature of the gameplay. I give it a 10/10 for wordplay. Another thing it has going for it is its cool, pumping soundtrack which reminds me a bit of WipEout HD's back on PS3. Interestingly, the entire game, save for the soundtrack, was made by one man (Ryan Juckett), a former sandbox engineer on Destiny. Inversus is his new studio Hypersect's first project, and its minimalist gameplay is about as far removed from Bungie's sprawling space adventure as you could get.
The game itself is simple to pick up and learn. You move your square around with the left stick and shoot in the direction you want with the corresponding face buttons: triangle shoots up, circle right, etc. Hold one of the buttons down and you'll fire a three-bullet charged shot. That's about it for the controls. The clever part is that you can only move in spaces that are the opposite colour of your own. Enemies will turn the spaces on the board the other colour as they move or shoot across them, forcing you to open up new pathways for yourself in which to manoeuvre as you go.
There are two modes in Inversus: the co-op arcade mode for one or two players and the competitive versus mode. Both play substantially differently from each other. Arcade swamps you with AI enemies and requires a large amount of dexterity for you to stay alive for more than a few minutes. There are several different enemy classes to deal with. The most common ones just hone in on your position but some also shoot at you while others have shields and take an additional hit to destroy. Luckily they are all susceptible to combo kills, in which you can set off a massive chain reaction of explosions by shooting them when they are clustered close together. Not only can this earn you a higher score, it also clears a nice big space for you to operate in.
Once you've played a level a few times, the next one will unlock. The stages get harder each time and I found all of them pretty difficult. There's no way to actually beat them; they just go on until you die. Instead, it's all about getting to the top of the online leaderboards. Unfortunately, arcade mode contains only six levels which, for a game with such basic map design, feels pretty stingy.
But as its rather ingenious name suggests, Inversus is primarily built as a multiplayer experience. You can play locally or online in either 1v1 or 2v2 matches. Your objective here is simple: shoot the other player(s). First to three kills wins the match. There are far more levels in versus mode compared to arcade with 27 in total. This gives matches a good deal of diversity in the way they play out. Some maps have large open spaces while a couple are built from a pipe-like network of lines that severely restrict your movement. Others feature projecting walls or solid blocks that can be hidden behind thus adding an extra level of strategy. There are a handful of power-ups you can acquire such as a shield and one that turns you into a deadly red square that will kill an enemy on impact. These do a bit to shake things up but a few more would have helped keep it more interesting. As it is, Inversus can start to get quite repetitive after a few matches no matter which mode you're playing. Another minor complaint is that you can't control your movement with the D-pad which would have perhaps made things easier considering you're moving about on a grid of squares.
Inversus's core gameplay is hectic and it can be fun in short bursts. However, its scarcity of modes combined with its lack of variation in combat means it probably won't hold your attention for very long.
- + An original graphical style that's integral to the gameplay
- + Requires strategy as well as fast reflexes
- + Cool soundtrack
- - Only six levels in arcade mode
- - Lack of variation and modes means longevity is fairly limited
- - Could use more power-ups for variety