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After Wave: Downfall – Review

After Wave: Downfall is a throwback to the chunky polygon era of the PS2 arcade game. I am so here for it as I love that vibe. Instead of being an arcade game though, this is a shoot em up with a twist. Instead of taking place in space, you are riding a jetski down a river instead. It’s a nice switch up of theme that does a lot for making After Wave: Downfall stand out.

Each boss is dramatic and has plenty of phases and moves to kill you with.

You can pick from a selection of characters (most need unlocking) that each have their own basic shot pattern and two unique special attacks. This means that each character feels unique to attack with even if they handle the same way. Whilst some are easier to pick up than others, all felt like they were viable options which adds in plenty of replayability. That’s just as well because After Wave: Downfall wants you to work at getting to see the full game!

To unlock levels for freeplay, you’ll need to complete story mode of three difficulty levels. Easy brings you only half the game, Normal three quarters and then hard the full shebang. Each difficulty ups the enemy count and bullet count so early on, things feel a bit simple and breezy but that difficulty curve ramps up as soon as you start normal mode. This is because alongside all this replaying, you’ll be grinding for coins to upgrade your characters. There’s a lot of choice on offer such as more health, damage and speed but you could spend on beefing up specific attacks or adding a shield or extra life. These coins unlock new characters too so if you want more characters to play with, you’ll need to grind to make them better. Initially, this grind feels quite balanced but I made the mistake of unlocking characters instead of upgrading existing ones and I warn everyone – this is the slow way to play! The last stages of medium difficult are very hard if you have basic characters to tackle them with so invest in who you have first.

Moving down a 2.5D river means you have to avoid obstacles alongside killing everything too. It is a nice touch.

Thankfully, whilst the grind feels a little stilted the game itself is fun to play. Enemies attack from the river, riversides and fly in from above and your weapons adjust to suit automatically. Alongside mini bosses, end of world bosses have multiple phases and really shine in the harder difficulties. Power ups for special attacks can be saved and charged up by an energy ring. You have the option of the smaller targeted special attack that uses less energy or the almighty one that’s usually a one hit deal. Sometimes going in big isn’t the best strategy as enemies (especially bosses) can often duck out of range.

The other thing I really enjoyed about After Wave: Downfall is that because you are on a river, it feels like you are actually moving forward and going somewhere. It also allows the game to implement a precision mode by holding a trigger button which slows down your boating movements for precise movements. The other trigger is for boost mode to speed from side to side. As you move down the river, there are moments of slaloming to be done at speed whilst precision mode helps with moments of bullet hell. It’s all very chunky PS2 era playable. Approachable, fun, colourful and inviting. The game is also available to play in co-op although I found the life revival system to be a bit annoying as you share lives in co-op rather than being able to hit continue and spend some of your cash for another three lives. This means you are constantly trying to save the other player when it gets hard and then 15 seconds later your dead again hoping for revival.

A fun, playable, approachable shoot em up, After Wave: Downfall is a lovely throwback to simpler times. I enjoyed myself and the theme and art style gave me hearty nostalgia with a few new twists to make the game feel fresh. Enjoyable.

Review copy provided by developer.

After Wave: Downfall
Final Thoughts
A solid arcade shoot em up that could work as a nifty starter for wannabe bullet hell players.
Vibrant colourful, chunky polygons give an early 2000's vibe I love.
Approachable, playable and scalable difficulty means you can learn bullet hell tricks as you go.
Lots of content, even if you have to grind a bit to see it all.
Some slight balancing issues with co-op lives and upgrades vs level difficulty.
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