Comet! It's a classic arcade game and a modern puzzler - in the back seat at a drive in B-movie. A deceptively simple game of flying saucers, space mines, alien worlds and, of course, comets! Comet! features high-speed action gameplay, unique but intuitive controls, extensive stat tracking, classic sci-fi flair, millions of points and lots of explosions.
Comet! initially attracted me with its seemingly simple color matching gameplay, usually reserved for music games such as Guitar Hero. Although simple to play, it's not nearly as simple to succeed in Comet!, a "hard core" arcade game in casual gaming clothing. I found myself surprised by how difficult Comet! can be at first, and one would think a game spending the majority of its time on auto-pilot would be a walk in the park. It's not, and biggest hurdle going into the game is playing it as the game is intended to be played as opposed to how one would believe it is to be played.
The basic goal in Comet! is to rack up a high score, earning points by using the player's UFO to smash into comets. While the player exercises some control over the horizontal positioning of the UFO and can stall the craft temporarily by applying brakes, movement is performed solely by pressing one of the four face buttons to send the UFO off into the direction of the nearest like-colored comet. This is initially jarring as anyone would expect to be able to fully pilot the ship in a game such as this. The UFO is always under the grip of gravity, always being pulled down toward the planet along with the rain of comets. The player must understand the perilous situation the UFO is always in and plan movements accordingly, chasing after comets which will both position the ship higher on the screen and net him or her some points in the process.
Comet! requires a light touch as a result. While any player can and most likely will want to depress the buttons constantly ensuring lots of smashed comets and a constantly moving ship, this strategy will soon result in a UFO colliding with one of the many mines and satellites orbiting the field along with risking chasing a comet on its way into the ground. Such deaths caused by speeding one's way into the dirt can be infuriating, but it's always the player's fault. Focusing on surviving first and point gathering next does wonders here, and hopefully people can learn how to adjust to the game and fight their initial tendencies before the demo timer expires as Comet! is a nice, unique arcade experience but one I suspect will frustrate many users going into the game cold and rushed.
Those who stick around will find Comet! offers solid graphics, a bevy of achievement awards, numerous performance statistics, and a variety of game modes (Time Attack, Countdown, Survival, and Casual). While the gameplay backdrop looks a bit too flat to mesh well with the colorful and well animated ships and comets, it's well rendered and easily dismissible once the game starts and the player's focus moves onto the comets. The awards are well thought out, and the modes offer just about any type one would expect in a scoring game such as this with the Casual option offering a great way to learn the game without succumbing to the frustration repeated crashes can bring with it. My one user interface gripe is how the menus are navigated with the D-pad and only the D-pad while the UFO is steering with solely the analog stick. I don't see why the UI could not have accepted analog input, and booting up the game for the first time had me thinking it was broken for a second or two until I tried the D-pad.
I do wish as I do for all scoring based games that Comet! supported on-line leaderboards. I know it's a headache and likely not worth the investment, particularly for a simple game such as this, but the gameplay in Comet! doesn't seem to be of the sort that would appeal to a great many players thanks to its unique control and high challenge, so being able to compare with others across the world would have been welcomed and potentially show what kinds of scoring are possible with the game (I thought I was doing well getting close to a million points at first until the YouTube video linked above proved me wrong). I like that Comet! tests my beliefs and skills, offering a high scoring challenge unlike any I've seen. Unfortunately, I have to wonder how much appeal Comet! will hold for the average player when a game focusing on a niche sort of genre goes against player expectations as Comet! does. Comet! is well worth trying out but is not for everyone and certainly not the impatient. However, those willing to adjust their sensibilities may find an enjoyable and challenging experience in Comet!