Wait, don’t run away! This isn’t a Virtual Boy game, however much it looks like one! Admittedly it is very red, and it has a similar minimalist style that looks almost old-fashioned, but it won’t cause your brain to catch fire after ten minutes.
With that conspicuous element covered, let’s get down to business. Redshift is a vertically scrolling shooter leaning towards bullet hell, and though it mainly doesn’t do anything too astonishing, it has a couple of nice touches that set it apart.
You control a small space fighter that flies up the screen into waves of enemy fighters that shoot at you in completely illogical patterns. I’ve never understood what enemies in bullet hell shooters are thinking. Is their job so boring that they have to construct an elaborate labyrinth of projectiles in the shape of a camel just to get one guy?
After a few of these waves, you come up against a boss enemy that fires in complex and overlapping patterns requiring patience and precision flying. This is where Redshift’s first feature comes into its own.
The regenerating ‘redshift’ gauge in the corner of the screen gives you access to two powers. One is a slow-motion effect that gradually depletes the bar as you use it. The other is a bomb that clears away all enemy shots in its blast radius but expends the entire redshift bar, leaving you without access to either power for a little while. I find the slow-mo power by far the more useful of the two. It gives you time to see where you should go to dodge incoming shots, and enables you to weave through tiny gaps that you would never attempt at full speed.
The most striking design choice other than the love of red is offering the player a choice of 300 levels. Yes, 300 – a huge selection for any game, and certainly for an indie. They ascend in difficulty from pretty straightforward (though not too easy, at least for a bullet hell Forrest Gump like me) to punishingly tough, and you can start at whichever point you like. If the low levels are too easy for you, feel free to start yourself at level 10, or 50, or anywhere up to and including the final level. Don’t worry that you’ll be missing out on chunks of the game. You won’t – which is Redshift’s biggest problem.
Redshift isn’t really a game with 300 levels. It’s a game with one short level and 300 difficulty settings. I still like it as an idea, but it does mean that you’ll never play the game for long, and you probably won’t revisit it very often. Replaying the same level over and over with slight increases in difficulty gets old after a while. You can still play Redshift like a normal game – any lives you lose on a level remain lost for as long as you continue that particular play session – but would you ever want to play one level 300 times? Even with seemingly randomised waves of enemies, the lack of variety holds the game back.
Having said that, I found that Redshift’s design choices give it quite a unique role: it’s a bullet hell training course. Thanks to my use of the time-slowing power here, I’ve found I’m getting better at seeing how to thread my fighter through narrow spaces, and this has carried over to other games. After spending some time with Redshift, my performance was better when I went back to other bullet hell games like the insanely challenging Vorpal.
Redshift College’s ‘Dodge Your Way to Success’ programme refines your bullet hell skills through gradual development. Slow-motion combat teaches you precision manoeuvres, and our graded level of challenge that can start and end wherever you like, from beginner up to professional, means there’s always something for you to learn.
You get the picture.
Redshift is a great starting point for people who don’t have the reflexes of a caffeinated cheetah to gradually get into bullet hell games and difficult 2D shooters. Veterans won’t find much to satisfy them here, though, and even novices will want to play a different level sooner or later.