Today was a great day, having had a day off work; the postman rang the doorbell and there was a package from Hucast – it was my Kickstarter copy of Redux : Dark Matters! I quickly signed for the package and scurried upstairs to where my Dreamcast is located, when I opened the envelope there was a great combination of postcards and stickers included with the game, some of the artwork on these cards was mesmerizing enough to distract me from the main mission – playing and reviewing the game.
Redux : Dark Matters comes to you all shinkwrapped with love from Europe and artwork-wise, is pretty darn well presented, the box art is very clean and keeps everything to a minimum – which is certainly in-keeping with the ethos created by the 2009 release, Dux. This being said, Dreamcast Today would possibly like to see more visual cues to this actually being a Dreamcast release, since this is quite devoid from the cover.
Now, admittedly, my Dreamcast hasn’t seen much action since I reviewed Sturmwind last year, but she was ready to fire up again for this game once I’d messed around with my VGA settings – one thing is very clear when booting up Redux is that Hucast have certainly taken the time between Dux/Dux 1.5 to Redux : Dark Matters to brush up on their front-end presentation, the game feels more professional compared to the aforementioned titles, the new title screen really sets off the mood whilst keeping the time to pick the options to actually playing the game down to a bear minimum. This serves as a good taster of what to expect from the game moving forward, we have two gameplay difficulty options – Dreamcast Today opted for ‘Normal’ play.
So, the first level fires into life and on initial glance, the game is certainly far removed from the clinical dream world we found in Dux/Dux 1.5, Redux feels more like it’s in ‘space’ rather than a testing lab in the future, there’s plenty to see and enough going on to keep your eyes and fingers happy I really enjoyed what I played of the first level and although the first boss killed me a few more times than I cared for, I was happy.
The second level is arguably where Hucast start to show what they know with the Dreamcast, the watery caverns and enemy design are top-notch here and feel far less slow moving compared to the first level introductory pacing, this is perhaps where Redux starts to suffer a little though, the enemy designs for this level onwards seem to go somewhat against the design of the game, I found plenty of times where I was literally ‘hiding’ around debris to avoid how manic the action was on the screen, this is certainly an acquired taste and can be a fun play style until relentless enemies who sometimes follow you around the screen zap your lives before you’ve really had a chance to enjoy what’s happening in the game, I found a massive balancing issue halfway through the second level that threw many enemy ships at me within a narrow play area, some bullets were heading my way from the front, some from the back, although the bullet soaking mechanism was certainly keeping me from hot water, I couldn’t help but yearn from Sturmwind’s bi-directional shooting technique, sadly absent from Redux. This certainly caused me to lose lives considering the game will respawn you slap-bang back where you died – if there’s a load of enemies around you; you can expect to lose another one of those precious redemption tokens.
One standout feature I have found with Redux : Dark Matters is the fantastic music quality, it really does set the mood for the game and is actually far better than the tunes found in earlier commercial shooters for the console, there’s never a time where the player thinks ‘why on Earth have they used that music to set the tone’ – everything fits in a retro shooter way, transporting me to the days of 32-bit shooters which is also reflected by the games sound FX too.
Graphically, Redux : Dark Matters is close to it’s predecessor which certainly isn’t a bad thing, Dux was not exactly lazy when it came to showing off the Dreamcast. The new background details really do make Redux feel like a new game rather than a re-imagining of Dux, I was impressed and commend the level of detail that the developers have bestowed on the game.
Overall impressions are certainly mixed, I wanted to adore Redux but I’ve walked away liking it rather than loving it. It’s a shame that some of the balancing issues found in Dux have crept through the core of it’s successor, I find that Redux could have benefited from a ‘peaceful’ mode where the player was given infinite lives to enjoy the work created by KTX Software and Hucast without the frustrations of an untimely death. Sturmwind went someway to rectify this issue by introducing a level select feature – something that could have been handy for this particular title, given that Redux at times, feels more like art rather than a late release shooter.
+ Beautiful graphical design that improves on Dux
+ Brilliant mood-setting music and sound FXs
+ Presentation of packaging and front end top notch
– Difficulty spikes rapidly after level one.
– Lack of overall Dreamcast branding / compatibility on the packaging.
– Could benefit from being more generous with lives to help everybody see what’s on offer.