It saddens me to see a good game go unnoticed. One such game that caught my eye is PowerUp Forever, a downloadable game for Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, released last year by Namco Bandai. Developed by the Blitz Arcade division of Blitz Games Studios, PowerUp Forever is a shoot ‘em up that fits perfectly in with its developer’s namesake.
Taking its inspiration from R-Type and Geometry Wars, PowerUp Forever is a beautifully simplistic game. Players take command of a spacecraft and hurtle around the inside of a cave, picking off a variety of flying alien nasties as they go. The game is controlled via the twin-stick method favoured by Geometry Wars, with the left stick for movement and the right for firing in any direction that you please, while shoulder buttons allow you to shuffle your arsenal about or activate devastating bombs to help in times when you begin to get overwhelmed. The thing that sets PowerUp Forever apart, however, is the way that your ship increases in size with each ‘level’ conquered, increasing your weapon power as it goes.
As a result, soon you begin to dwarf earlier enemies that initially posed such a huge threat, crushing them with a mere sweep over them as you glide around the environment, and bigger, more vicious creatures attempt to make you their prey in their place. The aim is to reach as high a score as possible, and to do this you must eliminate Guardians so that you activate points multipliers. Guardians are lured out by destroying leech-like monsters that attach to larger masses until the meter at the bottom of the screen fills, calling forth miniature boss battles wherein the majority of other enemies will buzz off while you circle each other in fierce dogfights. If you don’t feel like taking on a Guardian, simply do not go after the leeches – firing upon other enemies will instead increase a meter at the top of the screen that, when complete, allows a smart bomb attack to wipe out anything in your path. Bear in mind, though, that your weapons and abilities will not expand if you’re not willing to take on the bosses.
PowerUp Forever seemed destined to be a success, what with its accessible gameplay and beautiful visuals that recall early stages of EA’s Spore. Though it gets hectic, it also takes a unique approach in that it never feels as though the situation is too overbearing for players and, coupled with a soothing soundtrack and swirling visuals, the end result is a shooter that feels organic and almost relaxing, while still posing a decent challenge. Unfortunately, this is not the way things have turned out; at the time of writing, just 7,379 players were on the leaderboards for the standard difficulty setting on the Xbox 360 version, hinting that the game has gone criminally ignored.
My request, then, is thus: if you can ignore the delights of recent releases on Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade and feel like sinking your teeth into something different, give PowerUp Forever some consideration. Check out the demo, at least, and see what you think. It may not be the best experience you have in a game this year, but it certainly stands out of the crowd as one of the more refreshing shooter experiences of recent years for me – maybe it will for you, too.