Futuridium EP Deluxe is the PlayStation 4 and Vita release of last year’s Futuridium EP, which was exclusive to mobile, and this time around you get a graphical overhaul, a handful of new modes and levels, as well as cross-buy.
For those of you who didn’t play it, Futuridium is a spaceship shooter in which you are constantly moving forwards. Your only input is to strafe up, down and side-to-side, boost, shoot and perform a 180. Using these tools, you have to clear each level of blue cubes before shooting the white ‘Core’ that appears. It’s a simple premise – with no story to worry about – but it hides a surprising amount of depth.
The main draw is Deluxe mode – which you must play through to unlock the other modes – a series of 50 levels split into five chunks. You have to beat each set of ten levels to unlock the next. To do so you must complete each level before your energy runs out; a glowing bar in the top corner slowly depletes, and is reduced further by dying but topped up by destroying cubes. Lose all of your energy and it will cost you a credit – a throwback to the arcade cabinet games that have clearly been an inspiration. Originally you’ll only start with a single credit, though as you progress you’ll unlock more.
Without a story to drive you on, Futuridium keeps you going via several incentives. First up is the scoring, with points gained from destroying cubes and multipliers from doing so quickly. It’s exactly as you would expect, complete with online leader boards. Next is a set of medals, awarded for finishing levels without dying or under a certain time, and finally a total of all cubes destroyed across all game modes unlocks new modes – such as Classic and Single Level options – as well as the extra credits and new skins for the levels.
For all the framework however, it would be nothing without gameplay to match, and luckily Futuridium has it. Racing across levels, dodging enemy fire and finding the fastest route can be glorious, made all the better by the vibrant colours and techno beat. It’s quick, instinctive and an almost primal gaming pleasure when it gets it right.
Later levels suffer from a steep difficulty curve – more frustrating than fun – and they lose focus somewhat, with no clear route to take meaning you’ll muddle your way through. Nowhere is this more prominent than in the square levels. With sideways motion limited to strafing while you race forward, it means an awkward zigzagging to find the final few cubes that you missed on your first pass over. It’s not game breaking, but it’s a definite design mistake.
Futuridium is also in the weird position of being easier to play on the PS4, while at the same time feeling more natural on the Vita. On a big screen it’s so much easier to line up on a cube and judge exactly how much space you have to do so, where on the Vita it can feel fiddly and even unfair. The flipside is that for a game on a £350 console and shiny HD TV it’s really basic – you won’t sit down for a session on it – while the “play a few levels on the bus” approach you can take with the Vita is perfect.
Futuridium EP Deluxe is a cracking little arcade game, best for playing a set of levels when you have a moment rather than a long gaming session, and while later levels can be a bit frustrating, playing it in small bites makes it much more enjoyable.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.