By: Roberto Nieves
Developer: Radiangames, 2Awesome Studios Available on: PC, Playstation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X | S
When the system is infected, devastation will commence. 2Awesome Studio has had a stellar portfolio of games. The team, founded by two former European Space Agency engineers, have crafted amazing titles such as the cyberpunk platformer Aeon Drive and the fascinating spaceship shooter Dimension Drive. Now the team has partnered with Luke Schneider at Illinois-based Radiangames to send us into cyberspace devastation with Devastator, a twins tick hardcore shooter. Featuring vector-based graphics, this action-packed game packs a solid wallop of an experience, reminding players of the classics and introducing new ideas.
The viruses have infected the system, and it's time to deploy the Devastator. Deploying to the grid, the Devastator is a cutting-edge anti-viral program capable of deploying a variety of laser shots and bombs. Across multiple sectors, the Devastator fights to protect the system from entire armies of enemy viruses. The primary objective of the Devastator is to completely eradicate each and every virus, all 15 different types, or die trying.
Devastator bills itself as a hardcore twin-stick shooter, requiring quick thinking, reflexes, and an understanding of the gameplay mechanics to maximize the score and achieve victory. The ultimate goal is to destroy all enemies and survive, climbing the leaderboards to become the ultimate viral eradicator.
Devastator has three game modes: Quadrant, Sectors, and Cycles. Each mode has three difficulty modes: practice, Normal, and Hard. In Quadrants, players fight in wave layouts, with the parameters constantly changing in each wave. Each wave lasts for five minutes, and every subsequent wave increases the enemy numbers and the changing level conditions. Sectors are more of a marathon gameplay mode, where players fight 55 waves across five different sectors. Finally, there are Cycles, where players fight randomized viruses across five variations of 11 waves.
Players move with the left joystick and shoot with the right. On the surface, Devastator is a simple game. Keep moving, shoot often, and avoid touching anything harmful. Beneath the surface is a multitude of layers to the frenzied shooting. Moving without firing increases power into the laser shot. Small, cyan-blue shards are scattered throughout each level, and seizing them gives players more protection. Collecting purple orbs in each level allows the use of a charged bomb blast. The longer the button is held, the larger and more destructive the bomb blast is. Players may switch their spread of laser fire from Vulcan to Gatling to spread as well. Understanding all of the components is the key to earning the highest score and surviving the longest in the sea of viruses players face.
Visually, Devastator is stunning. The entire game perfectly evokes the visual splendor and scope of early arcade classics from the late 70s and early 80s home consoles like the Vectrex and arcade cabinets such as 1979's Asteroids and 1980's Battlezone. The crisp glowing vector lines and bright, sharp colors are extraordinarily smooth and polished to a sheen, breathing vibrant life into the arcade calamity. The transitions and animations strongly evoke the sensation of playing on an old computer. At the same time, the game maintains a sense of visual control so as not to overwhelm or confuse the player. A lot happens at once in Devastator, and some games may confuse the player with the digital violence between the lasers' fire and explosions. Fortunately, Devastator maintains focus and provides visual options for players to adjust if they feel too overwhelmed with the visual effects.
As for the gameplay, Devastator is exceptional. Controls feel remarkably tight and responsive, and the ability to down entire waves of enemies, many teeming in the hundreds, is an absolute joy. Moving and shooting just feels right, not floating or loose. The randomization of enemies also kept me on my toes, constantly working to adapt my strategy and avoid an early demise. Devastator works hard to reward the player and challenge the player to unexpected moments. A simple wave of mindless drones might suddenly erupt in interceptors and tanks. Some waves introduce more indestructible enemies, requiring the purple bomb to destroy. Other enemies use a front-facing shield to deflect all incoming fire, requiring players to maneuver and defeat enemies where they are most exposed. Each run-in Devastator offers something different and works hard to keep the experience from growing stale.
A wonderful touch to Devastator is the flexibility in the difficulty settings. If players want to become more acclimated to the danger of Devastator, practice mode is a safe bet. For players looking to jump into the fray, normal mode is available. For those looking to throw themselves straight into the hardest and most daunting of challenges, hard is available as well. The simplicity of the gameplay and controls is a good step in reachability, but the difficulty setting opens the opportunity for many more people. It's a nice addition and shows that while Devastator bills itself as a hardcore twin-stick shooter, it's also open to letting players in and growing with the experience.
Additionally, particularly in Sectors, Game Over doesn't necessarily mean starting from the very beginning again. Reaching one tier of waves unlocks it for future continuation. In other words, if players make it to wave two and die halfway, they may start at the beginning of wave two as opposed to starting at the very beginning of wave one.
For twin-stick shooters, gameplay is essential. It has to be very good, if not great, and Devastator swimmingly succeeds. Moving, shooting, and using the game's systems create a fast-paced yet strategic experience, bursting with particle effects and a thumping soundtrack. Each victory is a reward, and each defeat urges players to return for just one more game. From every turn and pixel-blasting moment, it's clear Luke Schneider at Radiangames is overwhelmingly passionate about the genre, and that is worn on the sleeve of Devastator. The twin-stick genre is quintessential in the world of games, from their history to their iterations in gameplay, from Nex Machina to Neurovoider. I am thrilled to see a game like Devastator continue the trend of keeping the genre alive.
Devastator is excellent, but there are some setbacks. There are two grievances with Devastator. The first is there aren't any proper boss fights, and I sorely wish there would have been. The Vectrex-style visuals could have made for an intriguing series of challenges. The second is the lack of a campaign. Devastator is there isn't a dedicated arcade or single-player campaign mode. For many, this won't be a grievance, though, for me, the grievance is only because of the setting depicted and the subject matter. Devastator takes place in a fictional computer system fighting viruses. I wish there were more of an arc as to what and why. Is it a military computer system, a civilian computer system? Is it interconnected to various networks and systems in the real world? Is it something like the WOPR from War Games, and the infected system belongs to nuclear weapons systems? Is the virus a malevolent overseer like Mega Byte from ReBoot or the MCP from Tron? Is Devastator sentient or just a utility? Is it something like Tron, an enforcement watchdog program that connects to a user and has a mind of its own? Is it, or could it be self-aware?
I feel a campaign of this sort, even if it was on the short side, could have added to Devastator and given more range and life to the experience. Part of this feedback is not only my nostalgia but the fascination for the subject matter. Devastator honestly feels like it would have fit perfectly well within the world of Disney's Tron and Tron Legacy. I could imagine Devastator being a program fighting for the users against a malevolent super program. Adding to this is another game within the same genre, Tachyon Project, which tells its story of a program coming to life in the digital world in a quest to rescue her creators from a corrupted government. Tachyon Project was another twin-stick shooter that, while short and rough around the edges, still told a quick, brief story. Lacking this doesn't break Devastator in any way. It's still a very solid twin-stick shooter with almost unending replay value. Though a part of me is curious that, should Radiangames revisit an action game, I'd love to see their interpretation of Atari's Battlezone done in the style of Devastator.
Devastator is an incredible twin-stick action title everyone should add to their gaming library. The visual style and amazing gameplay are worth the price of admission alone, which, as of this writing, is less than a venti Frappuccino at Starbucks. Devastator is a blast. You could even say it's 2Awesome.
Devastator was played and reviewed on the Nintendo Switch OLED and purchased on the North American Nintendo eShop.