Chaos. This is the most accurate word to use when describing KaleidoGames’s Vortex Attack. This seemingly simple Steam title, which is due to release soon, was the most fun that I’ve had with any arcade game since the original Galaga. Vortex Attack excels with addictive gameplay, different ways to play and realistic but difficult levels.
At first I was a bit turned away when I started up Vortex Attack. The menu was difficult to navigate, and just starting a game was a hassle, that said the game has not been officially released yet, so hopefully this is a temporary problem. Once I got the controls all figured out for in-menu navigation I was ready to go.
The actual gameplay of Vortex Attack is not unlike Galaga in some ways. With retro arcade style controls I had to avoid destruction from ships firing, and at times diving, towards me. There are also many sounds and effects that are clearly inspired from games like Galaga and Asteroids, but it is quickly apparent that Vortex Attack is a game of its own.
Once loaded into the game I had to destroy enemies by moving from side to side, and forward and backwards, all the while rapidly tapping on the fire key. The controls are incredibly simplistic, but playing with an arcade-styled gamepad would’ve been even better. Unlike Galaga, destroying the enemies on screen is not the only objective. If I had just destroyed enemies, the game would’ve gone on forever. The “vortex” from which Vortex Attack gets its name, is an ever-growing black hole on the opposite side of the screen. To close it, I had to collect energy that fell from enemies once I defeated them, and I had to do this faster than the vortex was growing.
My first playthrough with the default ship was rough. The default ship is slow, has average health, and doesn’t have too many upgrades. I made it through a few normal stages, a few boss stages and a couple of warp rounds (similar to Galaga’s bonus waves) before facing defeat. Every run through, players have 3 “credits,” one to start the game and two so that players can have the option of continuing past death, with the penalty with losing your high score. After gathering more ships from defeating bosses the game became vastly more fun. I began to defeat waves of enemies extremely quickly, advancing to the final stages of the game. Each ship has different capabilities and skills. My favorite is a nimble ship that can be upgraded twice, can fire a 10-shot multi-shot round and can have up to 3 laser-assistants.
I eventually got to the level before the ending three times and failed each time. This became frustrating, but addictingly so. I became obsessed with finishing the game, and only haven’t finished due to time constraints. There’s even more to the game though! There’s 3-player co-op (although one player needs a gamepad to play), which is sure to mix things up a bit.
Vortex Attack is a perfect example of a modern game revisiting an old genre and pulling it off. The simple but stylish graphics are entertaining, the amount of chaos that occurs on screen at once is exhilarating, and the addictive nature of surpassing more and more difficult enemies is unprecedented.