Schizoid Review

Info

Cooperative gameplay is redefined in the fast-paced and unique Schizoid! Quick thinking and quicker reflexes help you seize victory, but sharp teamwork provides the best chance of earning gold medals along the way.

No of Players: 1-2
Released:2008

Review July 2008 by Jamie Davies.

Two Minds. One Purpose.

Whoever came up with Schizoid’s tag line manages to succinctly sum up the game in those four simple words. Also described by the makers, Torpex Games, as “the most co-operative game ever”, its a focus that makes Schizoid a delight.

The controls are unashamedly basic, utilising only the thumbsticks in order to move the ships around the playing field. Despite its heavy co-op emphasis it can be played alone, with the A.I. taking control of one ship, or in the UberSchizoid mode the player can control both red and blue at the same time. Reassuringly the game A.I. is more than competent so solo play is enjoyable, but controlling two crafts at once is certainly not for the faint hearted. Regardless there’s no doubt that Schizoid begs to be enjoyed either in local play or online over Xbox Live, simply because it’s been designed from the ground up to be played that way.

Taking control of the red or blue craft the player must guide them around the screen, absorbing enemies of the same colour and avoiding those of the opposite colour. Initially it provides a distinct echo of Ikaruga’s bullet swallowing gameplay and may sound a little easy without the shooting. Don’t be deceived, because while it might be a cake walk in the opening stages, it doesn’t take too long before things become much more complicated.

Enemies will flee from their corresponding coloured ship and instead home in on the other. Later levels introduce creatures which seem to display an evil vindictive streak a mile wide, relentlessly hounding you at every twist and turn. The player’s ship is almost always faster but one split second of hesitation can mean a life lost. An amazing mix of wonderment and panic descends as the game seamlessly flips back and forth from being the hunter to the hunted, forcing players to co-ordinate before one becomes trapped with no way out. Lives are shared so a failure by either player means things become more difficult for both.

Co-operation is vital at all times to save one another or just to progress. For example some levels feature narrow lanes filled with alternating coloured eggs that hatch in to creatures, so each player must be in sync to advance and drop back for the appropriate colour. While the view of the level effortlessly pans out if the players split up, success is more often than not based on sticking close together and being able to change tactics at the drop of the proverbial hat.

Later on power-ups are made available and rather than making them a free for all there is still a large degree of co-operative play involved. Speed boosts, smart bombs and razor wire that hangs between the two ships and destroys anything in its path, all need to be triggered by the two ships touching. So trying to go it alone for a weapon just won’t work.

Schizoid displays the same level of thorough balancing and extensive play testing that shined through with Metanet’s N+. Sometimes it seems to be asking the impossible, but when you stop to think about what is required, nothing is truly unachievable if you can coordinate correctly. A real sense of motivation sets in, drawing you back to each hurdle until you clear it. The game rewards the player for their performance and clearing a level without loosing a life means that it’s skipped next time around – handy for getting back to that level that just gave you a kicking when you want to try again.

Throw in the games beautiful and distinctive visual style, a mixture of bright colours and trippy effects, and Schizoid is a pleasurably intense experience. Microsoft has been making a lot of noise lately about their XNA programme and Schizoid is the first game from it to see a commercial release. It’s a fantastic advertisement, not only for Live Arcade, but also for the XNA programme and if it’s a taste of things to come then there’s a lot of get excited about.