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Review: Anomaly a gem of a retro shooter

06-18-2009, 10:43 PM
Joined: Feb 2009
Location: San Francisco, California
Posts: 5,305
Review: Anomaly a gem of a retro shooter

The fate of the world is at your fingertips. Well, not literally, unless you’re President Obama, but with Anomaly, you can sort of live out your retro space fantasies. Anomaly is a gem of a game that combines entertaining gameplay with a sense of accomplishment. When you get through some of the obstacles in Anomaly, you’ll know I mean.

Being the closet sci-fi geek that I am, the storyline in Anomaly is typical of the “aliens attack and prevent the end of the world” genre, except in this game, you’re slowly given parts of the story only if you progress meaning you won’t have a clear picture of the premise until you’re deep into the game. The one thing you do know is that our existence is at risk from an unknown enemy, and you’re the only hope (cue the epic music). These enemies enter our part of the galaxy via anomalies (think wormholes) with their battle fleets prepared for attack. The objective is to destroy the power cores (immovable squares) since they keep the gateway open, and collect cargo pods (they look like giant swirls of white light). Of course, various enemies will be ready within the anomalies to prevent this from happening.

Visually, Anomaly has that classic neon retro look, and the upbeat, catchy soundtrack only builds on that. The game has 13 anomalies with 50 missions. One interesting aspect of the game is the explanation behind the missions behind each anomaly—your ship enters each with a different phase such as infrared light and visible light. There’s your physics lesson for the day. While the first anomaly is unlocked (training missions), once you successfully complete a phase, the next phase in the same anomaly unlocks as well as the first phase in the next anomaly. While the game is linear in nature, you have options for your next mission.

With the update, Anomaly plays in portrait and landscape views so it feels like you’re playing a Nintendo GameBoy. Anomaly has two modes of play: campaign, which is the story mode; and arcade. Under arcade, three submodes are available: classic, timed and objective. Classic is your basic high-score format; timed allows you to choose a specific time limit to score points; and objective provides a good practice format where you take out as many power cores as possible. For this review, I will focus on the campaign since the elements are basically the same. In campaign mode, a map tracks your progress by phase through the galaxy and includes a brief description of the anomaly.

The controls consist of a left pad for maneuvering the ship, a right pad for directional shooting, and shaking the device to activate bombs. There is a slight learning curve with the control pads because initially, they feel loose. But after playing through a few of the initial missions especially through the 4 phases of the first anomaly, you do get used to them.

In terms of the cargo pods, consider these similar to power ups where they provide additional health and new weapons such as multi-directional firing and speed fire.

One nice feature is the awards system which marks key milestones, 14 in all, in your play with Anomaly. Examples include:
§Can teach an old dog new tricks—completed all training phases
§Baby Steps—successfully finished a mission
§Frequent Flyer—completed one phase from every anomaly
§Feel the Power—collected more than 500 cargo pods
§Legendary—Killed 10,000 enemies

The game screen layout consists of two control pads at the bottom with a health bar in the middle. Up in the corner is the score, power core counter and cargo pod counter. Maneuvering your ship through some tight spots, you’ll dealing with a myriad of obstacles including moving barriers, electromagnetic fields and various enemies. Visualize it as a huge maze where quick thinking and fast shooting may help you survive. As you destroy power cores, there’s a nice temporary blackout effect, and when your ship is severely damaged, the hue of the screen turns red. Combined with the retro-looking enemies and battle area, Anomaly has a neat look to it.

One part of the game that found to my liking and adds to the challenge is that you simply cannot keep your ship stationary. What will happen is your ship becomes a live target and missile from launch from above causing damage or wiping it off the screen. The warning is that a reticule will appear, but have no fear because you can use this that weapon to your advantage since it will wipe out everything in that area including power cores. Power cores require multiple shots to destroy them and as your progress through the anomalies, enemy ships will have more firepower.

Once you complete a mission, the ship magically transports out of the anomaly taking you back to the map. This didn’t appeal to me so much just because I was expecting a big tidal pool to take my ship out. But, that’s just me. Anomaly doesn’t offer much in terms of instructions so the storyline was lost on me initially. While I understand not wanting to reveal too much of the story upfront, a tutorial on the power cores and the different enemies would help the newcomer to the game.

Anomaly is a fun game that provides a different take on shooters. If you’re patient with the controls, I think you’ll find it a fun diversion either with the campaign storyline or the pick-up-and-play aspect of the other gameplay modes.

Albie Meter: With the latest update, I've updated this to a 4.5 star game (a fun and different kind of shooter with a ton of levels, new stats, and landscape/portrait views)