“Memories stick to me every time I jump. They jumble together, and there’s no time to sort them out”… I wonder how many people relate to this quote. Coming home after working a minimum of 8 hours under stressful conditions, you always seem to find yourself lost in those trailing thoughts attempting your best to drop back into the comfort of your dwelling.
Maybe you can dedicate an hour or two to Enemy Mind, a side-scrolling pixel-art space shooter who’s main character suffers from the same exact problem as you do, but with far bigger consequences.
So what makes this game different than all the other hundreds of side-scrolling space shooters? It’s core mechanic and story line: You are an unknown entity caught between the war of two species, but unlike these two species you have the unique ability of possessing any host. In this quest to figure out who and what you are, you need to survive waves of enemies by taking control of any ship in the game and using it to defend yourself.
The nice thing about this game is that it doesn’t really require a tutorial more complex than “press A to capture ship, press X to fire”. You start off from the escape capsule of a destroyed ship and capture your first fighter. As you start shooting all sorts of enemies the lack of infinite ammo becomes very noticeable. Life starts flashing before your eyes and the expression of despair takes over your host’s face as you – the confused entity within – remember that you can swap with any other ship at any time, so you do, and continue to do so, creating the need to test different vessels with different guns and firing patterns.
This mechanic of interchangeable ships and that of limited ammo is what makes Enemy Mind such a unique experience, forcing a constant adaptation of your gameplay as the ships behave radically different and with the ammo cap, swapping ships (and thus, firing modes) means you have to devise a set of strategies ready to go at a moment’s notice.
The storytelling is this title’s second biggest strength. At each level’s end you get a new piece of the puzzle, but depending o the vessel currently possessed, you get to hear the story from that race’s perspective plus the unknown entity’s own thoughts. This gives the game some replayability and because of its strange perspectives, it keeps you engaged with the narrative, installing the desire to know more about what is happening in this strange war-driven universe.
Where the game doesn’t shine is its level design. If you are used to this type of games then the stages will definitely disappoint, as it is clearly not as well thought out as other titles in this genre like Jets N Guns or even the now extremely old but very good Tyrian 2000. However it is not bad, it’s just at an “acceptable” level and it doesn’t take away from the core story or the fun gameplay.
In conclusion, if you’re bored and like pixel-art then this is game for you: It’s fun, it has a good story, and it is quite a different experience. The game is right now a part of the humble weekly bundle if you wish to pick it up or you can buy it directly from Steam for £6.99 should you want to support the developers for their interestingly captivating sidescroller.
It also makes a good purchase if you’re looking for a cheap local co-op game to play with your friends. Allowing up to four players with full controller support, this game can make a great addition to your home arcade on those not so lonely social nights. Be careful though as there is the possibility for two or more players to control the same ship, making co-op a little frustrating.