Have I fallen through a time vortex? Has someone dug my old Commadore 64 out of the loft? No, it’s just a very retro shooter has hit the PSN store, full to the brim with the sights and sounds of my childhood. Scintillatron 4096, which is a great name by the way, is a retro shooter which looks like it fell through a crack in time and ended up in 2018. It’s a score chasing twin-stick shooter that has a unique combo system and eye-catching visuals.
If you have played any arcade style twin-stick shooters you will feel right at home here, you navigate through 2D arena’s and can shoot your weapons in eight directions to annihilate your prey. Your screen gets loaded with enemies and hazards, your job is to kill everything, not die and get the best score possible. It all sounds very simple and straightforward but there is a hidden depth to all the shooting and this is where this game stands out from other games in the genre and where the ‘hook’ of the game lies.
Your enemies, called ‘sub-atomic particles’ are different colours and your combo only continues if you keep destroying the same coloured foes. This gives the standard arcade shooter a slightly different feel to games in the same genre, sometimes you have to plan your moves, shoot carefully and think a bit more on your feet. You can just wade in and shoot everything but your score won’t trouble the scoreboards and let’s be honest, that’s what this game is built around, high score chasing. You sometimes miss your target and hit the wrong colour enemy and it resets your combo multiplier and it’s frustrating, also in contrast, when you pull off an amazing shot through a crowd it’s amazing and really makes you feel great. The sound effect of the enemies being destroyed gets a bit more high pitched every time your combo increases and it really does add to the overall effect, making high combo situations more intense and more deflating when the combo is lost.
Other things are thrown into the mix to make things a bit more interesting, mines are scattered throughout along with other hazards. If you start taking too long an annoying little red enemy will make completing the level more difficult and there are several badges you can earn on each level to keep you shooting for a while. You get awards for speed, accuracy and beating the level in one combo. The feeling of clearing a stage in one combo is a good one and definitely what this game excels at, rather than just holding the fire button, you pick your shots and tactically vanquish your adversaries in order and when it clicks feels very good.
I love the presentation of this title but it will put a lot of people off, the sounds and sights of Scintillatron 4096 remind me of gaming in my youth. Crunchy sound effects, techno voice samples and basic but bright graphics all lend itself to times gone by. I remember running down to the local shop when I was a boy and buying game cassettes for 99p, games were simpler and basic but we didn’t care. People were not scanning the game for frame rates or resolutions and moaning about it online, gaming was all about the fun and beating each other’s scores and that’s where this title sits. It’s fun, quick and knows exactly what it is.
In my opinion, the only thing that lets this title down is its lack of modes. You have a few multiplayer modes thrown in, which is nice, other than that it’s just score chasing through the same levels. It would have benefitted from maybe a few different modes to play, slight variations to the gameplay just to mix things up a bit. I will say though, that as your skill increases, the game gets better and better as you vanquish enemies with massive combos and pull off some outrageous shots to keep your combo going.
Once I worked out the combo system and got better at the game it became quite addictive, the only thing that really lets it down is its lack of modes or features. It really is just playing the same levels over to chase high scores and try and win the awards for each stage. The multiplayer modes are a nice touch but if your playing alone then your mileage with the game will be quite short, it’s a load of fun in short bursts but do not expect to sit on this game for hours on end. If you’re a fan of retro twin-stick shooters or classic arcade games then you will love Scintillatron, although I feel some people may be put off by its simple aesthetic and gameplay most will appreciate its classic style and visuals. Its slight puzzle combo system to the levels is a nice touch and makes it stand out in this genre, it feels great to hit an enemy to keep your score combo going through a massive cluster of other enemies. It rewards skill, planning ahead, tactical thinking and accuracy. All in all, Scintillatron is a fun little retro shooter that’s a bit different from others in its class.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*