Particle Mace PC Review
If there were such a thing as ridiculous as a Holy Bible of Gaming, somewhere back in Genesis would be the story of the tribes of arcade game machines slowly taking over the cities of America and Western Europe. Huge, hulking, and lumbering, they force their way into youth culture across nations, beginning an era of widespread gaming that would soon bloom into a worldwide phenomenon.
There are a few images that probably pop into mind when recalling the arcade era. Likely, you think of Pac Man, the little yellow circle gobbling up white circles and running away from multi-colored ghost-like blobs. You may also think of massive hordes of pixelated space invaders hurtling towards your base, bearing down on you as you frantically try to gun them down.
It’s probably fair to say, though, that when most people think of the archetypal arcade game, they probably envision something to do with spaceships blowing stuffing up. Enter Particle Mace by Andy Wallace. A game that wears its influences on its sleeve, lovingly embraces the games of the ancient 1980’s, and ultimately ends up being a pure delight.
The danger with making a game that feels this traditional, is that people will just ignore it, write it off as an unoriginal and move on to the next thing. Particle Mace deftly avoids this trap by tweaking things enough to create a brand new experience. In an interesting twist (and true to its title), this space shooter game has no guns. No, instead of a shooting asteroids and enemy ships with cannons or blasters, we get to bludgeon them to death with a mace of giant energy particles.
The game shines mainly because the physics are crisp and excellently programmed. The challenge of the game is unique among arcade games. Instead of the hackneyed aim-shoot-and-run model of games like it, in Particle Mace you have to learn how to control your weapon proficiently enough so that it gains momentum and swings into anything in your path. Essentially, your spaceship is dragging a series of balls on strings and you have to be able to maneuver your aircraft in such a way to control the swing of the balls so that they slam into enemies and destroy them.
Your ship is confined to field of space inside a fenced in octagon, and your ship has no shields and no means of protection other than the mace. Asteroids of all sizes hurtle towards you and enemy ships try to chase you down. Black holes will open up, distort gravity, and try to suck you up. The motion of your mace is altered and suddenly you have to account for the distortions when on the attack.
There are a number of different modes offered. You can play old-school style and just aim for the highest score or you can play mission mode which presents 150 challenges for you to achieve. Mission objectives can vary, but generally require you to destroy certain targets or achieve goals in certain time frames. There is also an interesting series of missions that requires you to refrain from killing any enemies for a specified time frame. This ends up being harder than it sounds considering the furious pace of the game and the often erratic motion of the particles on your mace. Finally, there are also co-op modes which make for some of the most fun of the game.
The graphics and sounds are straight out of 1985. The soundtrack is fun and tastefully hearkens back to an 8-bit era of various beep and boops. Graphically, we are back in the golden age of arcade games. Everything has been lovingly designed so that the graphical limitations become a strength. Undoubtedly there is a level of nostalgia here that will touch on the nerves of players of a certain age. Maybe gamers that came of age in an era of stunning graphics and realism will not have the time nor interest to seek out a game like this which must seem prehistoric to them. I sure hope that this isn’t the case.
With any game from any era, the ultimate question always has to be: is it fun? Well, Particle Mace is fun as hell. The gameplay is easily learned but devilishly difficult to master. Progress is made in fits and starts, and there’s a particularly great and addictive feeling that you get when you start getting on a role. Suddenly, you learn how to finally get some good blows out of the mace. Enemy ships fall and start to multiply your score by ten. Asteroids are crushed and the mace is now spinning so furiously it’s like a ballerina of death just blasting everything to pieces. And then, all of a sudden, there’s a small splinter of an asteroid you swore you destroyed come spinning out of nowhere and just like that, it’s over.
But the fun is just beginning because in true arcade style, you have to try just one more time. A game as stylish and fun as this is definitely for keeps. There’s something very zen in trying to master the perfect mace swing.