by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
The Future Is… Then?
On the surface, Futuridium EP Deluxe may just look like a slightly vamped up version of a classic retro speed racer/shooter. You’d probably be expecting to have your reflexes tested at high-speed as you dart from side to side avoiding obstacles and collecting power-ups. Well you’d be right to a certain extent, but Futuridium is a little more complicated than that.
Fight, Flight, and The Element Of Thought
The aim of the game is simple, you are piloting a small fighter, soaring along the surface of a dreadnought that you need to take down. You must take out ‘power cubes’ as you go, both to replenish your ships limited and steadily depleting power supply, and to reveal the dreadnoughts core. Once the core is revealed and you must destroy it to destroy the ship. All the while you are being bombarded by the dreadnoughts defences, a variety of lasers, homing missiles and other more inventive weapons. The challenge of avoiding these and destroying all the cubes is where the games difference comes into play.
Rather than simply rocketing from one end of the ship to the other, shooting and dodging as you go, you have the ability to turn 180° on the spot. This is where the game develops something of a puzzle element. Rather than moving in a straight speedy line from A to B, you are forced to plot more of a zig zag path around the surface of each dreadnought. This isn't a gimmicky mechanic that you only have to really use every now and then. This is something the game will force you to make use of often. It has the effect of turning Futuridium from a space racer into more of a space maze. Handling your ship around these mazes feels well done and doesn’t sacrifice the sensation of speed. On the flipside, you’re not going to be going so fast that flipping around feels disorienting. Destroying the power cubes and making sure your power levels don't drain is a challenge, as the cubes are scattered all over the place. Then once the final cube materializes, you never know where it might be. Having to backtrack to get to the final cube can be a huge drain on your resources.
The Death Penalty
All of this is made all the more stressful by the fact that if you should die, you go back to square one. To make the importance of this situation more clear to you, the game is split into multiple stages, each stage is made up of ten levels and once you complete all ten you move on to the next. If you die at the first level or the tenth, it doesn't matter, you’ll start all over again. This can lead to some incredibly frustrating moments, especially when an untimely death is quite easy to come by. The collision detection isn't great in places, and flying slightly too close to an edge you think you can miss sometimes ends prematurely. But most of the time death comes from the backtracking and sometimes randomly changing environment. This game is not for the faint hearted, but for those who are determined to repeat levels over and over until you succeed. Coming to grips with the gameplay is a must early on, especially for those who will be turned off by very steep learning curves. There is the possibility of earning credits you can use to respawn in the stage you died in, but opportunities to earn these do not come about very often.
Visually the game is a cacophony of colour and movement, with weapons fire raining around you and the levels moving about all over the place. It’s easy enough to get lost in everything that’s going on and lose concentration. For the most part though, the retro inspired visuals are quite good, not that you’ll have much time to appreciate them as you dart about avoiding rockets. The soundtrack that accompanies the visuals is more than fitting. The electronic rhythms and beats work incredibly well with the gameplay and really help to amp up the pressure as the game intensifies.
Ultimately, Futuridium EP Deluxe is a game that could very easily have been a quick fix, flash in the plan to be finished in an hour or so and forgotten. But the level of challenge, interesting movement mechanics and enticing visuals and soundtrack make this an experience worth the investment. Yes there is a relatively steep learning curve, but for completionists who want to train themselves on something new, Futuridium EP Deluxe has a lot to offer.
Interesting, challenging gameplay, great visuals and soundtrack
Sometimes bad collision detection, steep learning curve