Vortex Attack on PC
Since the days of Space Invaders and Asteroids, there have probably been roughly a million takes on the space shooter. KaleidoGames’ Vortex Attack takes on the genre yet again, with some interesting twists to the gameplay that make for a unique experience. This is 2016, though, so I have to wonder if a few gimmicks and some updated gameplay elements are enough to make this a fresh experience that’s going to draw players in?
On the surface, Vortex Attack is a pretty standard arcade-style shooter, pitting players against waves of bizarre alien enemies. Weapon and ship upgrades, big boss battles, and more are all pretty classic elements of the genre. Vortex Attack doesn’t waste much effort on updating these common elements, instead turning its focus on the pieces that make it stand out from the rest. This means the basics all come off as, well, pretty basic.
The first thing that Vortex Attack introduces as a unique element is the vortex itself. While levels consist of fighting against scads of baddies swarming forth from this wormhole, the real goal isn’t to defeat them, but to close off their point of entry. To that end, players must gather “Lumenergy” — small white triangles left behind by defeated foes. Collecting enough of these will destroy the vortex, allowing passage to the next stage.
Along the way, of course, Vortex Attack will throw all manner of enemies to stop players from closing each vortex. The game’s levels are divided up by stages and by areas. Each area, of course, is guarded at its end by a powerful mothership, serving as the boss that players must defeat to move on. With the defeat of each boss, players may earn a new ship, and passage to a transitional stage that introduces the upcoming area in a vortex-free stage.
On its own, Vortex Attack isn’t especially impressive. While the unique “close the vortex” approach does branch off some from typical shoot-em-up gameplay, it may not be enough to really stand out from the crowd. That’s why, after a less than stellar initial launch, KaleidoGames has bolted on some great new things to sweeten the pot, including local multiplayer and global tournaments allowing players to test their skills against the masses and see how they stack up.
If I’m to be entirely honest, Vortex Attack feels a bit underwhelming in a lot of ways. The simplistic graphics, lackluster sound, and slow start aren’t likely to make the best initial impression. If you look past this, though, there’s a pretty solid experience lurking underneath. The different ships, unlocked mostly through gameplay, each present a distinct feel during play, and the game’s core as a true successor to the arcade cabinets of old definitely shows.
With its lack of flair and distinct old-school roots, Vortex Attack isn’t likely to appeal to everyone. That said, a palatable $4.99 price on Steam is a solid deal for the fun that can be had, and those who yearn for days tossing quarters into stand-up machines are sure to get something out of it. The online leaderboards and tournaments alone may be worth the price of admission if you’re the kind of person who likes stacking your skills up against the general populous, but enabling online play would have gone a long way to improve the multiplayer experience.