The thrilling sequel to the #1 Japan hit and proud member of the INDIE GAMES WINTER UPRISING. Back with intensified gameplay, extra power-ups, more firepower, improved retro graphics, huge bosses, and a beautifully remixed IMPHENZIA soundtrack. Developed by the “empower the player” philosophy of XONA GAMES, award-winning creators of DUALITY ZF and SCORE RUSH.
We've been here before. In the absence of its much publicized shooter Duality ZF, which is the Loch Ness monster of Xbox Indies, the Doucette brothers released a quickie Space Invaders clone, Decimation X, at the start of 2010. Now, at the tail end of 2010, we receive Decimation X3, a "sequel" to the Windows Phone 7 version of the original Decimation X. Xona Games had been been promising on-line leaderboards for some time now, so players would be likely to think that's what this release addresses, but they would be wrong. For all of its hype as part of the ongoing winter indie game promotion, Decimation X3 seems more intent on plugging its developer's name on screen than addressing those issues which would warrant a second console release. People new to the series will likely enjoy the slight visual enhancement to be found in X3, but owners of the original will struggle to find a reason to update when the nuts and bolts of it are the same as what was released and played to death at the start of this year.
Decimation X3 picks up right where Decimation X left off, keeping the same fast paced 4-player Space Invaders-style action which enthralled so many when it was first released. Players take command of a ship and blast through waves of enemies while gathering power-ups to improve the ship's firepower, add shields, and so forth. There appear to be some new alien types, but that's essentially a non-factor in a game in which the enemies all play the same cannon fodder role regardless of their design or color. The most notable change is the addition of bosses, giant blocky versions of the regular invaders which take a beating before going down. While the bosses do add variety to a game which otherwise is just about shooting down wave after wave of repetitive enemies, their inclusion in the game feels awkward, monoliths which neither feel as threatening as the alien horde nor are interesting to look at with their oversized pixels looking more like graph paper cutouts than leaders of a rainbow colored alien army. In addition to the boss targets, the waves now center themselves on the screen when introduced which helps curtail some of the problem of these sorts of games favoring "peeling" tactics, shooting them down from the edges and working inward to disarm the mob as safely as possible. This tactic works the same in Decimation X3, but the positioning of the invading cluster leaves less of an opening for players to exploit it as much as in the original game.
The graphics of the original Decimation X are decidely simplistic with no real style about them, featuring large, chunky shields; tiny ships; and incredibly simple aliens to blow up. Decimation X3 keeps the overall display the same but improves upon the look of the invaders with greater detail afforded by the dot-matrix redesign. The game looks much better this time around with larger player ships and aliens both affording them more personality but also widening the hit box, enhancing some of the challenge in dodging enemy shots. Players will have to deal with both being a larger target as well as enemies firing chunkier bullets, a change which feels for the best although part of the thrill in the original game is found in weaving the ship through tight spaces, a gameplay element in less supply here. The bottom of the screen also features an expanded floor to accomodate early 1980's Activision credits for both developer Xona Games and soundtrack composer Imphenzia. The branding does push the fat player ship up a bit further into the screen, leaving less distance between it and its targets. The reduced spacing not only would increase the challenge of the game but also lift the ships a bit from the very bottom of the screen, a setback for people with certain older TVs or those who have trouble seeing the action set so close to the edge.
Despite the improvements, fans of the original title will find it tough to shake off the disappointment from another release of largely the same game free of the promised leaderboards. Decimation X is a scoring game, and Xona Games and fans have done well in trying to keep that spirit alive via video uploads of high score runs and tracking global leaders on the Xbox.com forums. Its absence leads to this "sequel" feeling entirely unnecessary, lacking that one thing which players of the first game have hoped to have seen by now. The leap between the two games feels too trite to warrant a second release, at least without the primary request being part of the package. That criticism of this entry's worth aside, Decimation X3 remains a excellent, particle effect loaded arcade shooter which is just as fun as its predecessor... which is the game I've already purchased and will continue to play as this "sequel" has given me little reason to upgrade.