Not many game developers can proudly state that their game is best described as ‘Psychedelic’, but small independent Italian developer MixedBagGames have done just that, and few will argue that it is not used correctly in the case of Futuridum EP Deluxe. With the look, sound and feel of a 70’s disco, Futuridium is a gorgeous, colourful, addictive and at times punishingly difficult game, that will see you either hooked to your Vita for hours on end, or looking online for the best price of a replacement, after you have thrown you handheld gaming device out the window or at the wall in anger.
Over a year since the release of Futuridium EP for free on PC, Mac and Linux, Futuridium EP Deluxe is described as the definitive version of the game, with more levels, new abilities and a larger soundtrack. Plagued by delays, MixedBag revealed that they had to push back the release date of the game due to the fact that they kept wanting to add new levels and features. But was it worth the wait?
The main addition to this expansion of the game is the Deluxe campaign mode, which has 50 new levels to complete. For the uninformed, in Futuridium EP Deluxe you play as a lone starship pilot, who regains consciousness to find him/herself in a dimensional loop, filled with giant ‘Capital’ ships. With a constantly depleting energy bar and little other options, you must converse every ship, destroying all the glowing cubes that align their exteriors with your built in turret, to expose and obliterate each ships core. Destroying each core will maximise your energy, and send you off to the next ship to repeat the process. If dealing with depleting energy wasn’t bad enough, the massive Capital ships aren’t going to let you expose their cores without a fight, and each level is filled with an array of missiles, lasers and jagged spikes all intending to blow you out of space… and blow you out of space they will.
The artstyle in Futuridium EP Deluxe is a joy to behold, with a retro style and diverse colour palette. The games colour scheme, or ‘skin’ can be altered as you play by simply pressing triangle. New skins become available as you destroy more blocks, and it certainly is amusing clicking triangle as fast as you can when you have a good number of skins unlocked to watch the world around you explode with colour. The result only heightens the feeling of being in a retro disco from decades long past.
Capital ships also contain a variety of colours and fill the empty void of virtual space with an odd form of beauty. As you progress further through the 50-leveled Deluxe campaign, ships become more and more elaborate, with multi-layered areas to explore and plenty of hidden blocks to find. A personal favourite of mine is the level names ‘Cubed’, which had an array of colourful areas and difficult to reach blocks. The techno soundtrack is also fantastic, and really added to the retro feel of the game. At times it reminded me of the similarly fantastic Hotline Miami soundtrack in terms of tempo, feel and pure enjoyment. You will definitely want to play Futuridium EP Deluxe with the sound full blast or with headphones.
As you progress through, you unlock credits, which are basically ‘Continues’. These are essential as Futuridium EP Deluxe is extremely unforgiving. There are five zones split across 50 levels in Deluxe mode, 10 for each zone, including boss battles. The only form of save you get is when you reach the end of a zone. For example, if you were to reach level 20, and die, if you don’t have any credits left you will have to restart back at level 11. Before you find your feet within the game, you will die, ALOT. Your energy bar serves as your timer. Simply put, if you don’t destroy the core before it runs out, it’s Game Over. With a host of projectiles, sharp edges and strange purple balloons all taking turns to swat you out of the endless void, you will be facing the Game Over screen constantly at the beginning of your playthough. I found the first 10 levels particularly gruelling, due to the lack of credits available, joint with my lack of knowledge of the gameplay.
Once you get the hang of it, the game plays extremely well. The joysticks are used to navigate your ship which is constantly moving, firing your gun is used by pressing X, with RT used to speed boost. If you miss a few blocks, or are heading straight for an exterior wall, you can press Square. This spins your ship around and points you in the opposite direction. Strangely enough, the only point in the game where the controls felt sluggish was in the menus. For some reason it can take a few tries to select the option you want, with the joystick controls feeling very loose and unresponsive. Be warned, if you are faced with the ‘Continue ?’ screen after dying, and want to use one of your stored credits, make sure you are careful to select yes, as a couple of times in my eagerness to get straight back into the action, the unresponsive ‘Continue ?’ screen sent me back to the main menu by mistake. It is also important to note, if you do use one of your credits, your score will be halved as punishment. This did seem extremely unfair, considering that one of Futuridium EP Deluxes biggest draws is assessing how well you scored against your friends in the leaderboards.
There are three medals that can be earned for each level. You are awarded one for avoiding death, one for getting the highest combo from shooting all the cubes consecutively and the last by finishing a level in an obscenely short amount of time. Achieving all three medals is extremely difficult, and becomes borderline impossible as you reach later levels, with countless missiles and nasty traps hiding around every corner to halt your progress. If you do crash during a level, you are sent back to the beginning. Luckily all the blocks you have shot up to that point remain destroyed, but unluckily your energy bar will be reduced even further. At points it felt that sending me back to the beginning of a level after a crash was pointless, as the blocks I still needed to destroy were at the other side of the Capital ship, and I knew there was no way I would reach them before my energy dropped to zero. It did feel like some form of checkpoint system should have been implemented in the much larger levels.
Yet, even with these negatives, it never took anything away from the fun that Deluxe mode brought me. You are encouraged to constantly better your run time and medal count, and even though I found myself constantly starting again from the beginning of a zone after dying seconds before destroying a core in a boss battle, the addictive nature of the gameplay made me more determined than ever to show those Capital ships who’s boss.
As you destroy more blocks more game modes are unlocked. These include Classic mode, which is the same game you know and love from the original 2013 release as well as an oddly addictive mode known as Flappyridium (I’ll leave it up to you to realise why its named that). What I discovered after playing the Classic game mode, is just how much more difficult the original was. Your energy bar drops quicker, there are less blocks to help boost your energy and there is no speed boost. This is an issue when you are spawned back at the beginning and are in a hurry to reach the last remaining blocks. With the new Deluxe campaign, you still experience the challenging nature of the original title, but perhaps won’t be as likely to throw your Vita at the wall in frustration… maybe.
I am not a patient gamer, and I will admit that Futuridium EP Deluxe did try my patience at times with its unforgiving gameplay. But what I found is that it simply made me more determined to do better on my next run, and to try different tacts for shooting all the blocks in the fastest time possible. Its not often that a game as challenging as this has held my interest in such a strong way. Once I had eventually conquered a level after many retries, the feeling was extremely satisfying.