Creator Rob Fearon originally released Death Ray Manta in 2012, as a short-form twin-stick arena shooter which embraced a truly retro look and feel. It saw another release in 2015, where it was rebuilt and revamped for the PC with a pumping soundtrack and vibrant visuals as Death Ray Manta SE. Now in 2020, SE sees another addition, in the form of a Nintendo Switch version that relishes in the twin-stick functionality of the joycon controllers.
Taking inspiration from short-form shooters before it, like Robotron, Lamatron and Geometry Wars to name but a few, Death Ray Manta SE will definitely throw newcomers to this genre in at the deep end. Upon pressing start, players will be launched straight into the action – there isn’t any story attached to the gameplay…it is purely about the frantic experience and nothing more, here. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – this mimics predecessors in this genre before it, and keeps the fast pace moving.
Death Ray Manta SE challenges players to complete 32 levels with just a single life. The objective on paper is simple – each level includes vibrant alien-like enemies that you’ll need to shoot with lasers strapped to your Manta Ray as you swim around galactic levels. Clear all enemies on the screen and you’ll proceed to the next level. Many players will be pleased to know that there is also an option to toggle preference of right-or left-handed for the main direction stick in the options menu.
As with many short-form games in this vein, it won’t be a surprise if you immediately fail on the first level. The gameplay certainly has a ‘one more try’ feel to it. As you progress, new enemies are introduced, which rapidly increases the difficulty on each level you clear. Levels take on a ‘muscle memory’ pattern recognition – the more you remember the movements of the enemies, the more you’ll progress through each level. After trying again and again, you’ll find yourself gradually progressing higher up the level ladder, and this is where the game’s addictive nature really sits. ‘One more go’ can easily lead to ‘ten more goes’ in quick succession.
We cannot talk about Death Ray Manta SE without mentioning the visuals. Upon first glance, there is a lot going on on screen, which can be a little overwhelming on the first few attempts. On these first few tries, the rainbow of colours, positive words filling the screens and fast-paced movements of the enemies makes it a little difficult to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. However, you should become attuned to this craziness after getting to grip with the controls and gameplay after the first few goes. At this point, the vibrancy filling the screen actually starts to feel quite cheerful and fun.
Soundtrack-wise, the synth tracks are excellent. The pumping beats go hand-in-hand with the fast-paced gameplay and vibrant visuals perfectly, while also working to emphasise the retro-feel of the game as a whole. It would also be a brilliant soundtrack to listen to separately outside of the game, if retrowave tracks are your thing. The additional shooting sound affects and robotic voice shouting ‘raw power’ every time you start a new level also helps to transport players back to the 1980s.
What Death Ray Manta SE does lack though is online or local co-op play, and online leaderboards. However, it is satisfying enough playing this offline and alone, so it doesn’t really feel like a necessity here.In summary, Death Ray Manta SE might not be a game for everyone, but for fans of short-form twin-stick shooters, there’s plenty to like here. Lifting a vibe right out of the 1980s, the retro aesthetics and soundtrack, paired with the bursts of vibrancy and the addictive ‘one more try’ gameplay makes this a game that many players will enjoy returning to over and over again.
Kayleigh Wingate is a games writer for ICUGamer.com. Follow her on Twitter – @8_bitgirl.
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