Psichodelya Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Set in a futuristic sci-fi setting where alien aircrafts battle it out in the skies for supremacy, Psichodelya draws heavy inspiration from other titles in the Shoot ‘Em Up genre, especially from Ikagura but with a slight twist with its polarity switching mechanic. While visuals and audio aren’t exactly its strongest points, gameplay mechanics are decent and work adequately. Psichodelya does not break any new ground in terms of gameplay, but its unforgiving and unrelenting difficulty should provide Shoot ‘Em Up enthusiasts with sufficient challenge to whet their appetites for some time to come.

While the graphics and sound effects fall short of making it on par with some of the more established and well-known shoot-em-ups, Psichodelya provides a decent challenge for shoot-em-up fans looking for a diversion, and its challenging gameplay should enhance its longevity for months to come. However, taking into account both its level of polish and price relative to other games in its genre, it is hard to recommend it over other similar titles already found on Steam.

Upon starting Psichodelya’s single player game, you are given a choice between 3 different aircrafts. The choice isn’t purely that of an aesthetic preference however, as the ships differ in the angle of their projectile fire. For instance, while all ships will fire 3 distinct stream bullets directly in front of them, each differs from the others in the angle at which the remaining 2 side-guns fire; hence you have one ship that shoots both side-guns directly in front of them (in addition to the original 3 streams of bullets), another one that shoots one gun toward the front, and the other one at a 45 degree angle to the side, and finally a ship that shoot both guns at a 45 degree angle in opposite directions. You then choose your preferred firing type between “Shoot“ or “Stream“; the first referring to the default mode of firing a normal hail of bullets, while “Stream“ refers to a laser beam mode that is activated after you hold down the fire button for a few seconds. Choosing one means you opt to make one of the modes stronger than its default strength. While the laser “Stream” is essentially stronger than the stream of bullets, activating this mode slows your ship down significantly, so knowing when to switch between the two modes will make the difference between life and death.

Another aspect of Psichodelya that shoot-em-up veterans will no doubt find familiar is the colour switching mode, similar to the polarity switching mode found in the highly successful 2001 Japanese shoot-em-up, Ikaruga. In Psichodelya, you will often want to find yourself switching between red mode and blue mode, which in turn changes your ship’s shields, as well as the colour of your bullets or laser beam, to the corresponding colour. Choosing one colour protects you from enemy projectiles of the same colour, however this makes your own projectiles weaker against enemies of the same colour.  It is this gameplay mechanic, in addition to the “Fire” and “Stream” modes mentioned above, that forms the main tactical aspect to how you tackle the enemies in Psichodelya. In addition, each colour comes with a finite number of shields, so unlike Ikaruga, where you could basically stay in one mode to become totally impervious to enemy bullets of that colour, you have to actively take stock of and try to avoid getting hit as much as possible to conserve your shield levels. Should you find yourself overwhelmed by the wave of enemy bullets, you can call upon the use of your bombs, which will damage all enemy ships and nullify all enemy projectiles on screen.

The action comes hot and fast as you progress further through each level. A variety of enemy ships shoot at you in a hail of bullets as you weave your way through the pattern of bullets, getting progressively more heated as the bullets come towards you in more intensive waves and in ever more intricate patterns. As a relative amateur to the shoot-em-up genre, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the unrelenting onslaught of ever more challenging patterns and increasing enemies, which is to say, fairly frustrating to me. While the game allows you to choose between 5 difficulty levels, the only difference between the difficulty levels appear to be the number of lives as well as the number of coloured shields you get; in any case, the enemies remain just as unrelenting and unforgiving as they would be under a more challenging difficulty mode.

All that challenge is welcomed in any shoot-em-up game worth its salt; however the visuals are somewhat less than impressive. If fancy and dynamic backgrounds are important for you in a shoot-em-up game, then you may find yourself less than awed with the art direction found in Psichodelya. While the background sceneries serve the game well enough, they are by no means particularly eye-catching, and are all entirely non-animated. In addition, certain aspects of the game could use better visual feedback. For instance, while destroying a ship results in a large explosion and a numerical score displaying on screen, it would have been much more satisfying as well as if there were some animations of sparks or small fiery explosions whenever your shots connect with the enemy ship, or when the enemy’s bullets collide with your ship’s shield. At the moment projectiles just abruptly stop or disappear upon reaching the enemy, or hitting your ship’s shield. Enemy projectiles resemble shiny plastic coloured beads flying through the sky, which, while serving a clear contrast against the backdrop of a clear blue ocean, or sandy yellow sand dunes, are clearly far from aesthetically ideal.

Coming to the auditory aspect of the game, the music, while not something to rave about, works well in providing a sufficiently upbeat and heart pounding experience as you blast your way through alien ships and soaring through alien skies. Again, returning to the problem with the lack of visual feedback for projectile collisions, a similar problem is observed with the auditory aspect as well – for example it would have been much more rewarding if one could hear the tell-tale “thud”, or the groan of buckling metal as their bullets slam and their laser beam cuts into the chassis of the enemy’s spaceship. Same point with the enemy depleting the player’s shields – it is easy to lose track of the fact that one of your coloured shields is depleting rapidly due to the absence of auditory cues.

Currently, Psichodelya retails on steam for US $6.99, whilst Ikaruga and Jamestown, two of the sources of its inspiration retail at a few dollars more ($9.99), and offer a much more satisfying experience. Between Psichodelya and the other more established shoot-em-up titles, it’s easy for gamers to feel the incentive to spend the few extra dollars to get a more polished shoot-em-up experience.