An excellent arcade twin-stick shooter filled with hidden depth and tons of replayability
Bezier: Second Edition is an arcade twin-stick shooter Developed by solo developer, Philip Bak (Niine.Games), and is published by Thalamus Digital. It’s an updated version of Bezier, originally released on Steam in 2016
I’ll say it right off the bat, this game is astonishing. While I don’t have really much experience with the genre, I believe that if it looks even remotely up your alley you should buy it and support the developer because they’ve made something truly great here. I had a single nitpick with the game, sometimes when there’s a lot on the screen you might be hit by something hard to see which could be frustrating. However, I think developer Philip Bak knew this, which is why these types of projectiles tend to deal the least amount of damage. That alone wasn’t enough to dock it a half star.
Now, obviously, it’s not a perfect game, no such thing exists, and a review is a subjective thing, it’s pure opinion informed by experience. To me, a scoring system for games (be it a star rating, 10/10 or any other metrics you may use) is not about whether the game is perfect, it’s about looking at the particular thing you are judging, and basing your score on it on what the thing is, what it sets out to achieve, and how well it does so. Based on that, I can’t do anything but give this game the full five stars.
The game is a feast for the eyes, with an obvious comparison being the Geometry Wars series. The UI subtly warps as you move, various particle effects are going off almost constantly, and there are 100 different enemy types. Some are simple shapes, others look more like spacecraft, or some sort of sci-fi jellyfish. There’s always something interesting to look at, and with the game’s system of progression, new enemies will appear nearly every playthrough. The UI itself is also very easily readable at a glance (I played the whole time in handheld mode and had no trouble at all) and doesn’t get in the way of gameplay. In fact, a large, and very helpful, part of the game’s UI (the radar) is always centre of the screen, with your ship in the middle of it. It becomes a part of the gameplay and is very elegantly designed.
In terms of gameplay, it’s deceptively simple. You pick one of 3 difficulties (with each difficulty’s effects detailed on the selection screen), pass through a series of 5 levels on a branching path, with each level getting tougher until you reach the boss, Domus (a floating face that will taunt you through each level that is described in-game as “a wrong ‘un” and “a proper berk”). You have a time limit to destroy the enemy shields that will spawn into the arena (marked on the radar by a yellow pointer) and survive the onslaught of enemy forces. If any shields remain when time is up, you die. For the most part, it’s a standard twin-stick shooter, but it’s got a couple of mechanics that help keep it engaging, especially as fights get more hectic in later stages. One of these is the auto-aim. Instead of using the right stick to shoot in the direction of enemies, you can use one of the face buttons to automatically target nearby enemies. This attack shoots faster and locks on, but it has an overheat mechanic. It’s invaluable in the more hectic fights, but it needs to be managed, which makes combat more engaging than just holding the stick towards your enemies. The other mechanic is the game’s special weapons. These range from a freeze ray that freezes nearby enemies, to smaller ships that follow you and help in combat. To obtain these you need to collect stars, dropped by tougher enemies, or the from every shield you destroy. The first 6 will upgrade your ships speed and weapons, and any subsequent ones you pick up will give you a special weapon. However, if you choose to not use the weapon, the next star you pick up will cycle you to the next of the games 7 special weapons. If you choose to use the weapon, the next star you pick up will put you back at the first weapon. It’s an engaging risk/reward system, and there is a very definite sense of progression through each of the weapons, as the later ones do feel more powerful, but situations do get dicey enough that you do have to consider using it early. The game also has some other mechanics that it deliberately keeps to itself, and they’re just as useful. In fact, the game has a bunch of secrets it keeps from you, and I’m almost certain I’ve not discovered them all. If you delve into the game’s Help section, it does tell you some of these hidden features, although there is a spoiler warning for those who want to discover things for themselves.
The game also has a narrative element, which is unusual for the type of game it is. It takes place inside an underground computer that houses all physical life (basically a sci-fi Noah’s Ark, not the only biblical analogy), and you as the protagonist are trying to escape after 100 years. Depending on the branches you take, the story does alter somewhat in some pretty unexpected ways, and the themes were definitely interesting enough to keep me playing to see what would happen. All the story is told to you in voice-acted dialogue that never disrupts the gameplay. It works seamlessly within the game, so if you just want to play you don’t have to worry about cutscenes interrupting your playthrough, and there’s even a separate audio slider for story-based audio if you don’t want it at all.
Speaking of audio, the game’s soundtrack is astounding. I went in expecting standard chiptune style arcadey music and instead was met an orchestra, synths and percussion that seem to dynamically adjust as you play, ramping up with the action. Typically I’d expect an arcade game like this to have a few short tracks that loop based on the level, but Philip Bak decided to fill it with over 80 minutes of music and it’s all excellent, far greater than I’d have ever imagined for a game of this genre, and was the star of the show for me.
Simply put, Bezier: Second Edition is a fantastic game that goes above and beyond what you’d expect from it. If you’re a fan of the genre you’re bound to love it, but even newcomers to twin-stick shooters will likely be satisfied, I for one was. It’s great to look at, plays fantastically and the (80 minute?!) soundtrack is outstanding. There’s tons of replayability on offer too, with multiple levels of progression, 15 areas to play through via its branching paths, a wave-based mode and daily mode, each with their own independent local and global leaderboards.
Bezier: Second Edition releases on Nintendo Switch January 21st and is (at the time of writing) available to preorder with a huge 75% discount on the Nintendo eShop! (It’s not an affiliate link, I just think it’s an absolute steal!)
Tom Woods is a Games Journalist for ICUGamer.com. Follow Tom via Twitter @T_Woods93
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