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Devastator – Review

I love twin stick shooters that get right down to business and Devastator does just that. It is a purists twin stick shooter, firing tons of enemies at you at visceral speed. It may be lazy to throw in Geometry Wars as a comparison but if you enjoy that style of reflex chaos, Devastator is cut from the same cloth. You don’t be thinking as much as you’ll be reacting to the incoming threats.

Devastator has three distinct modes but two of them are quite similar. You’ll be presented levels in Cycles and Sectors modes that are up to 2.5 screens tall and wide with various layouts in them. Enemies of increasing difficulty will spawn and like viruses, they multiply quickly. Even the lowest threat enemy if left to fester will spawn dozens of copies of themselves and cause a threat en mass. Sectors mode breaks this into 55 waves across batches off 11 waves whilst Cycles bring 5 variations of 11 waves of enemies. The concept is the same though – shoot everything.

Levels are lightly randomised around some central rules meaning they are familiar but different every time.

Your three guns are all available from the start and can be upgraded with power ups left in the levels. Some have more spread, some more powerful but are narrow. I personally didn’t switch them up often as I found the “reflex” bullet suited my style best. These were weaker bullets that could bounce off of walls meaning less need for accuracy. Viruses mutate though and some enemies spawn or red red in colour. These cannot be killed by bullets and instead are killed either by bombs or spawning energy points. When you touch these energy points, a blast radius occurs and kills all red enemies and freezes the orange ones. I spent time early in the game thinking that enemies turned red when wandering through red areas in the game and this seemed to be true. However later on, I noticed this wasn’t the case and after several hours of fun, I still don’t feel like the red enemies are well explained or defined.

The third mode is quadrant and this is where Devastator flexes its muscles most. The energy cores mentioned above are placed in four corners of the map. Touching them not only sets off a blast to kill red enemies and freeze orange ones but also mutates and changes the map in the opposite corner. Wide areas can become tighter corridors or cul-de-sacs and vice versa. Of course, the incentive with these energy cores are for more points but they also provide energy to eventually give you additional bombs. At the same time collecting 4 shield powerups gives you an additional shield, otherwise its a one hit kill.

Having 20 enemies flying towards you may mean activating a bomb or energy node might be a good escape plan.

The final game mechanic is overdrive. At the end of each sector or quadrant run (5 minutes) overdrive kicks off. This sees a frenzied spawn of both enemies and power ups and the game becomes a race against time to grab the powerups and kill the enemies before they kill you. It means that you cannot rest on your laurels even when you feel in control due to that last minute surge. Your scores for normal and expert modes go onto local and online leaderboards but sadly as the runs are slightly different every time, the scores are not an absolute science. Some runs could score better/easier than others although I must say that the variations on each run have some tight rules. You’ll feel each run is familiar, not exact.

If I were to be critical, which is tricky when everything flows so easily and beautifully, it would be that sometimes enemies spawn quickly and you are given little warning to get out of the way of their spawn points. The graphics sometimes don’t help with orange bullets and enemies coming at you en mass meaning you aren’t sure bullets will keep flying at you. These are very minor problems though as the core gameplay experience is absolutely great.

Devastator is a game that absolutely delivers above its price point. It is so fluid to play and rewarding when you smash everything to smithereens, you can’t help but come back for more. Quadrant specifically is a great innovation and I’d love to see more of that in a sequel if the game does well. In the meantime, buckle up twin stickers – this is a gem.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Final Thoughts
A fine example of fast, furious arcade action distilled into an aggressive and moreish twin stick shooter.
Very fast and fluid (PS4/5 tested).
Frantic second to second gameplay that makes each level feel visceral.
Online and local leaderboards.
Quadrant mode is such a great idea.
Some of the nuance of enemy design is lost in the chaos and not well explained.
Not all runs are identical so the leaderboards have wiggle room for big/small changes.
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