There has never been a genre more classic than that of the side-scrolling shooter. There is just something about constantly scrolling to the right that brings a tear to a gamer’s eye. The Xbox Live Arcade gets a fresh new spin on your father’s scrolling shooter in the form of Omega Five, a game that will definitely bring tears to your eyes — but for a vastly different reason.
First of all, there really aren’t any visible signs of a story here. That isn’t surprising, however, considering this type of game, so that can be overlooked. You’ll begin with two characters to choose from and possibly get two more (more on that later). The characters play mostly the same, though, with only slight weapon tweaks and special abilities here and there.
The controls take a unique approach with the “letter buttons” not being used at all. The left stick moves your character, and the right stick aims your weapon. The right trigger activates your character’s special ability; in the first character’s case, this means either a grappling hook or the ability to change firing styles. The right bumper activates the “panic mode” dodge move, which can get you out of the heat but costs some health. The left bumper, meanwhile, initiates an Armageddon-style uber bomb that kills everything on the screen — as long as you have one. Finally, the left trigger activates a charged shot that varies in usefulness.
Scattered throughout the levels are A, B, and C type weaponry. The weapons vary from character to character, but basically follow the trend of a rapid-fire weapon, a steady flamethrower weapon and a scatter-ammo weapon. The weapons can be powered up and become more deadly, but only if you can stay alive long enough to get the power-ups. The previously mentioned uber bomb is acquired by picking up pink triangles that the enemies drop when killed. Gather enough pink triangles, and they’ll form one big death triangle that appears in the upper left of the screen when it’s ready.
Upon starting the game, the first thing you’ll notice is the amazing visuals. The characters are intricately detailed and the crisp, lush environments are stunning. You’ll find yourself up against robots, mutants and other incredibly odd enemies, with the ugliest oddities saved for the boss battles. The enemies, bosses, trees, rocks, water, moss and even walls are beautifully designed. Seriously, this thing is pretty.
Unfortunately, in this case, beauty is only skin deep. Underneath this Mona Lisa of a concept art design rest some problems. With basically only the two sticks needed for control, the game’s flavor gets old fast, and there isn’t much variety to keep you hooked. The frustrating thing is that you’ll have to stay hooked if you hope to complete this game. The game will make you sweat for those 200 Achievement points by making you beat the game without dying with each of the four characters. With the lack of health pickups, long levels and hordes of enemies flying at you from everywhere, Omega Five separates the boys from the men, with the Achievements separating the men from the just plain extreme.
The game sort of gives you a little bit of help by increasing the amount of extra lives you have depending on your total play time. This doesn’t count leaving the Xbox 360 turned on at the main menu while you eat a turkey sandwich. This is pure payment for playing, and the extra lives will help you at least get those new characters. The extra lives won’t aid in the Achievement collecting, however, and the mere idea of beating this game without dying is unfathomable to mortal men.
Omega Five is the perfect example of what a side-scrolling shooter is. It’s action packed, challenging, bloodthirsty and full of enough weapons and explosions it would make Rambo proud. However, if you’re an Achievement Point junkie, 200/200 is a sight only seen by the gods of side-scrolling.
- Score: 7.5
- Omega Five is a rose: great to look at but painful to handle. The graphics will amaze you, but the pure frustration of actually playing will make you stay far, far away.
— John Dempsey