As you might have heard me say on one of the recent TSA podcasts from Eurogamer Expo, Genix is like playing the original Doom entirely while looking at the in-game map.
No no no no no, stop stop stop! Keep reading, I promise that this central gameplay idea winds up being far more exciting than it sounds. Come to think of it, it might just have been one of the best games on the show floor.
Squirrelled away, out of the indie section but in some equally overlooked corner of the show not covered in energy beverage ads, sat a poster for upcoming Xpod Games release Hypoxia. Having been assigned to preview Hypoxia for the lovely folks here at TSA, naturally I sat down and began playing.[drop]Unfortunately, as with many independently released titles made without massive budgets or huge teams of staff, Hypoxia was having pre-show jitters and wasn’t available to play when I sauntered up to the team’s show area, instead replaced by Genix. This was the point where I thought “I’m here now, my feet hurt, I’m in a bit of a grump, TSA’s getting a preview of whatever this is instead”.
The plot’s super simple: it’s 2042 and aliens have invaded, so it’d be just dandy if you could kill them all and save the day or whatever. In fact its entire construction is really straightforward; no frills allowed. Menus look like those found in DOS-era games but snap along nicely, clearly designed for quick access to content than audio-visual spectacle, and work well with either a game pad or mouse and keyboard.
Then it’s on to the game proper and its retro-minimalist, wireframe aesthetic. It’s all sharp, crisp edges, and where there isn’t colour or angular white lines, there’s just the pitch black nothingness of empty space. If you get a kick out of titles sporting this – almost Vectrex-like – look, then you’ll adore Genix’s restraint in its use of palette.
If you already don’t feel like this is your cup of tea, then you should probably go and read something else on TSA, because the rest of this preview will be a waste of your time. This is PC indie gaming to the core, and only if you’re happy to accept a “kooky” look, and a stripped down experience based on tight mechanics with a few rough patches, will you derive enjoyment from Genix.
So then, now the squares have gone, you and I can really rap, G.
Genix is a shooter that uses two sticks, but it’s not what you might call a twin stick shooter. You pilot a craft around on a single plain, viewing the action (by default) from behind. You can move the camera up and down to get a better view of the map around you, but since there’s no height to the geometry – only flat lines – it’s a bit obsolete.
You zoom about areas with the utmost precision. Movement is incredibly fine, supremely subtle, the dual stick setup taking moments to master, making swooping around these corridors and destroying enemies a cinch.
As you fire volley after volley at abstract tanks, artillery and what look like giant evil whirring cogs, it’s apparent that the main skills are learning to dodge the fire of bad guys, and moving swiftly through levels for fast times. Quick strafes and zig-zagging through a hail of pew pew is rewarded as much as accurately firing your limited conserves of ammunition. Equally, nabbing all of the coloured key cards (remember those, crusties?) and reaching the exit fast makes for some of the most intense runs.
There are some of those previously hinted at negatives of course, but you won’t mind too much. The reasons you won’t mind are two-fold.
- Because you’re the kind of cool indie-hipster cat that’s got this far in the preview
- The rest of the game looks like it’ll make up for its failings
There’s a weird clipping issue, whereby you’ll run into an enemy and won’t be able to wrestle yourself from its wireframe model. Also some walls will let you rub up against them and slide past objects blocking your path gracefully, while some will stop you dead in your tracks. Why? Because making video games by yourself is hard, yo.[drop2]In addition, from the limited number of levels I saw, there’s not too much complexity or sophistication: it’s a basic but strong idea, executed upon with grace and style, which doesn’t change up its mechanics very often. Community driven content will no doubt drive creativity here, but then again it’s difficult to guarantee that it will build (and more importantly, maintain) a significant enough audience to keep interest high in the long run.
And I was going to end this preview there. But no. You know what? I’m not letting this article go out like that; on a low note.
So read this and read this well you moustache twiddling indie game lover: keep an eye out for Genix when it’s released this October on Desura and Indie City, because it’s really good, and very fun, and you will like it. Plus it’s coming to Xbox Live Arcade and Steam “eventually”, according to the nice man with the beard who was stood behind me while I played it. I’m 99% confident he made the game, so he’d probably know.