This game is for the birds… and those that dig platforming, twin-stick shooters with a neo-retro aesthetic. Featherpunk Prime dropped today from new indie developer Super Hatch Games with the tagline, “Lock… Load… and Flamingoooo!!!”. The setup is completely ridiculous, which is in part why the concept ends up working to a fair degree.
The world of Featherpunk Prime is inhabited avian species of the cyborg variety. Our heroes, the cyber-flamingos, are attacked and abducted by the evil Cybirdroids. A sole member of the species avoids capture, and then sets out on a quest to destroy the baddies and rescue his fellow bird-kind. It’s a simple premise with out any great depth, but it’s all that’s needed here.
The game is focused on its movement and combat mechanics, paired with randomized level — which they call tower — layouts. As you climb the tower, the difficulty, enemy types, and weaponry evolve. The start sees the player with simple a simple pistol, a low amount of health, and relatively uncrowded levels. The pace becomes more frantic as enemy counts increase, along with player skills and methods of attack.
Defeated enemies and destroyed containers drop the game’s currency, which can be used for your choice of upgrades: health, damage, critical damage, droid upgrades, etc. Newer upgrades and skills are unlocked as the game progress through its 6 level increments. There are 5 sections of the tower to fight in: the 6th is always a save hub, the 12th a boss fight. This means that you can only save tower progression after successfully navigating and surviving 5 levels. This can be frustrating, but this is old-school challenge shining through.
Luckily, the randomization of towers and the fluidity of control are enough to keep things from getting stale for the most part. The game was obviously built with a controller in mind. The triggers act as shoot and jump, bumpers are left and right jet boost (after they are unlocked). Your cyber-flamingo can wall hug, slide up and down walls using boosters, double or triple-jump, and generally bounce all around towers at great speed.
This creates a system where players may feel the need to always be on the move to survive. I found the opposite to be quite true. Due to the lack of bullet drop-off, the use of wall-hanging and weaponry often creates precise angles where enemies can be safely taken out with relatively little danger… until you get surrounded by the many that can kill you. Weapons like the bouncer, where-in bullets do exactly that, help with those angles, but are also capped with lower damage output for balance.
There are good amount of weapons, especially by the time you reach the later levels. However, they can really be boiled down to single projectile rapid or slow and explosive, either with possible proximity or remote-trigger options. They create a variety of ways with which players can attack the levels. What works best is probably up to individual choice, though I often found myself relying on speed and choosing my weapon pick-ups — which only occur a single time at the beginning of each level — based on how I would approach the boss battles.
All of this happening in a “neon-soaked mechanical world” as the Steam page describes it. The player-flamingo glows a neon blue and pink, and enemies feature similar colors with the red “bad-guy” tones added to the mix. The levels themselves carry a similar bombastic pastiche of electro-mechanical glow, though, sadly, each groupings stylistic difference aren’t much more than a palette swap, which is the heart of the comparatively small problems I had with the title.
Even with randomization things drift into the the repetitive. This is partly based on how well you’re playing. Admittedly, the developers estimated a 5-6 hour play time, while it took me over 10 to complete. It’s obviously built for speed and value at that play length, and a modest $9.99 price-tag. I don’t know whether I was being a “scrub noob” or the devs were used to their own quick play times — probably a combo of both — but in the 10-12 hour range the true lack of variety comes through a bit. For better players, with faster pace, this will most likely being somewhat negated.
The avian-themed, cyber-retro package is completed with an electronic soundtrack. The tunes from composers Ben Ziapour and JoeSound fully embrace the retrocore soundscapes, which cash in on the nostalgic love of 80s and 90s synth and new-wave with contemporary instrumentation and creation methods. Taste a sample of the music available on Bandcamp.
With a bargain price, it isn’t hard to recommend Featherpunk Prime to those that enjoy this genre of gaming. Though throughout my play I was noticing areas where the game could be expanded and improved, it was, and is still, important to remind myself that this is a small title, created in about a year’s worth of development time. The game is mostly the work of an artist and programming duo who shared industry experience previously at Sony. The price, level of gameplay polish, and overall package are a wonderful accomplishment from such a small price and a truly minuscule timeframe.
Featherpunk Prime was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.
Developer/Publisher: Super Hatch Games | Genre: Twin-stick Platformer | Platform: PC | PEGI/ESRB: N/A | Release Date: Sept. 1st, 2016