Developer: Active Gaming Media Inc.
Release Date: June 3rd, 2010
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox 360
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
There hasn’t been much of the way of SHMUPs released on the new consoles yet. Outside of the subpar Project Root, a re-release of Jamestown, and the rather fantastic Resogun, there hasn’t really been anything for fans of the genre. Prismatic Solid sees itself coming out of the Xbox Indie Games Marketplace and on for a proper release. Is this enough to hold SHMUP fans over for a major release?
Prismatic Solid is a vertical SHMUP where you play as a little ship surrounded by three lasers. The lasers are really the biggest new convention that Prismatic Solid introduces. These three lasers are both an offensive and defensive tool, as they can damage enemies by hitting them or soak up bullets meant for you. They’re necessary to use too, as several enemies have attack patterns that hit the whole screen. Killing enemies drops powerups for the lasers, causing them to grow in length. Then you can sacrifice some of that length to use a screen-clearing super attack.
I could cycle between six different firing styles for my craft at any time, which would also change the location of the lasers. Some firing styles were more useful than others. I found both Homing and Shower to be useful both because of how the beams worked (Homing went after targets, while Shower just did tons of damage to things vaguely in front of me) and because the positioning of the lasers gave me a ton of shielding. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure what the use of either the 3-Way or Spread attacks was, as both seemed to do too little damage with damage areas too spread out. Rainbow was your traditional “big damage to things directly in front of you” laser, but it left me totally unprotected so I always had to use this one with care. Finally there was the Snow laser, which did massive amounts of damage and left me almost completely protected, but only hit in a very small area in a circle around my ship.
Using these tools I went through five levels plus one bonus level. Each level had unique threats, one had asteroids flying at me while another had shipping containers moving about the level. While the first few levels felt rather easy, I got through the first two without dying on my first try, the latter levels begin to feel a little unfair. Usually this wasn’t because of enemies or bosses, I found that the lasers almost did too good of a job shielding me from bullets. Rather it was because of environmental threats that my lasers couldn’t stop and that would kill me in one hit. One level feels almost cheap as I had to navigate a maze of constantly raising and lowering pillars, with even the slightest touch killing me instantly. SHMUP enthusiasts will be more welcoming to these challenges, especially with the general ease of the enemies, but I found them rather annoying.
I wanted to like Prismatic Solid, but it felt like the game was swapping between “laughably easy” and “unfairly difficult” too often. The biggest feature is the lasers, but they mostly just took away the challenge from normal enemies unless I forced myself to use a specific firing mode. Without anything else Prismatic Solid is just a totally average SHMUP with little to provide for fans of the genre, but maybe enough to keep a casual interest from a few players.