When a game combines elements to form its own identity, the result is always interesting. Project Root features the bullet-dodging arcade gameplay of retro shoot 'em ups with rotational movement controls similar to the Strike games. Is this a winning combination or are you better off sticking to the roots of these genres?
There's no denying how sharp Project Root's detailed visuals look. Your ship along with all of your enemies may be small on screen, but their intricacies make them appear quite realistic. Even the colossal bosses are composed of finely crafted features that make battling them a joy. Each environment provides a unique atmosphere as you'll find yourself shooting above cliffs, bodies of water, frozen wastelands, and fiery volcanoes. A couple of issues with the graphical presentation come in the form of explosions that look like superimposed videos and the story sequences. These segments only feature a couple frames of comic book characters as they lifelessly carry on a conversation. On the plus side, you're treated to a pretty cool opening cinematic. The audio is the game's main downside since the music is super generic and the effects are so quiet that they actually take some of the satisfaction away from blowing stuff up. Overall, it's a mostly great looking game, but with a few issues and unsatisfying audio, it could definitely use some work.
Controlling your ship is incredibly simple. The left stick moves and strafes while the right rotates the ship. As opposed to most shooters, only the environment rotates while your ship remains pointed straight ahead. Holding one of the shoulder buttons automatically fires a stream of ammunition to take care of airborne targets while the other handles ground enemies. It's a similar concept to Xevious, but this is played within large levels to explore instead of automatically scrolling stages. Lastly, you can collect and unleash power-ups by the tap of a button. These mostly consist of stockpiles of special weapons while others increase your remaining health, provide additional lives, and surround you in temporary shields. Although you'll accomplish many missions within each level, the basic gameplay never changes enough to keep things fresh. After you get a few levels in, you'll already realise how repetitive and tiresome the journey will be.
Project Root's campaign consists of eight lengthy levels. As previously mentioned, you'll accomplish a handful of objectives in each. The first time going through a level, it can take you well over 15 minutes to complete it. This is impressive considering how brief levels are in similar games. Most objectives have you dodging bullets while shooting at a target. At times, you may be prompted to protect something, but even then the gameplay remains unchanged. As you shoot at your foes, you'll encounter an irritating occurrence from time to time. Basically, every level is surrounded by invisible walls (which is annoying enough on its own). Sometimes, an enemy could be past this wall as they carelessly shoot at you and you can't retaliate no matter how hard you try. I've even come across enemies that fly right into mountains then emerge unscathed. What's that all about? Anyway, certain objectives require you to take down massive bosses and even large structures. This is probably the most satisfying part of the game as blowing up these enormous entities is a blast.
One thing about Project Root that'll turn casual gamers off is the intensely brutal difficulty. Although there are three difficulty settings, playing on the easiest will still pose a notable challenge to even the most skilled gamers. The difficulty is amplified by the fact that once you run out of lives, you have to start the level all over again which can be a huge pain if you were right near the end. All of that being said, when you finally manage to complete a level, it feels fantastic. It's a challenge that hardcore gamers will relish while it'll inevitably frustrate casual players. To take some of the difficulty away, you can level-up your ship by earning enough XP points. These are acquired by simply playing, but conquering levels and completing sub-objectives will reward you with plenty of bonus points. After levelling up significantly, you'll definitely notice a difference in your firepower and overall ability which is a great feeling.
Project Root might not be the best shooter that you'll play this year, but it's undoubtedly an interesting one. It contains plenty of unrefined aspects, solid yet unvaried gameplay, and many frustrating moments, but it can also be an enjoyable and worthwhile experience if you're a fan of both the Strike series and shoot 'em ups.
- + Solid controls with simple gameplay
- + Sharp and detailed graphics
- + Brutal difficulty makes any sort of progression a satisfying achievement
- - Generic music and minimal audio effects
- - Gameplay severely lacks variety
- - Enemies can become unreachable behind both visible and invisible walls