Tachyon Project by SwitchWatch
Developer: Eclipse Games
Publisher: Eclipse Games
Release Date: January 25th 2018
Price as of Article: $9.99 USD, £8.99 GBP
In the vain of the classic arcade game Robotron 2084 and the more recent Geometry Wars, Tachyon Project is a twin-stick shooter that’s been out on practically every system going since its initial release. Personally, I even played and reviewed it back on the Wii U many moons ago, and finally it’s arrived on the Nintendo Switch. Indeed, it seems if you want a twin-stick shooter these days, the Nintendo Switch is the place to go as we must have covered at least a dozen of them since the console’s launch. So how is this one supposed to stand out from the crowd? Well, by being pretty good.
You maybe surprised to hear that there is a story mode in Tachyon Project, and it’s definitely an interesting concept. You are a computer program named Ada who’s been designed to hack into secure systems over the internet. After her two creators are taken away by a mysterious organisation, Ada takes to the net, searching for clues as to what happened to them. There are intermittent cut-scenes that tell the story through mostly static drawings. Sadly the little animation involved makes it somewhat difficult to keep interested in it, especially when it keeps on the same drawing for an uncomfortable amount of time, but aside from that it’s a nice surprise in a genre you wouldn’t really expect it. While I never felt totally involved with the characters, I was interested in the overall outcome. Does Ada save her creators? Is there a twist?
In the audio department, the music is pretty decent, even if somewhat predictable in the fact it matches the visual themes in exactly the way you’d think. It’s all original techno music that has a lot of variety in it and doesn’t get repetitive which is always a bonus. It helps add to the tension of the gameplay very well and of course pumps you up for the tight battles against the hordes of enemies that will come your way.
Sound effects can also play a large part in the experience, especially in twin-stick shooters where you’ll be hearing the same sounds over and over due to the nature of the gameplay. They’re actually pretty solid. They’re not annoying in anyway which is always the danger, but then again they’re hardly the most satisfying sound effects I’ve heard. There’s no oomph or thump to the attack which is what I really want to hear. It’s not a massive issue though as it’s not particularly noticeable.
Visually it’s quite adequate, nothing special, your ship and enemies are kept fairly simple and distinctive. The futuristic neon colours against dark backgrounds really stands out but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Even though it’s on a 2D plane, everything is made of 3D models and they are a little on the simple side if I’m honest. The game could have been a little more ambitious in this area but when the gameplay is fast and furious, you barely notice it.
One thing that did bother me about the visuals is that they’re not as sharp as they should be. There’s an overall murkiness to everything. The colours do stand out but they don’t pop. Whether that’s to do with the frame rate or not, I’m not sure.
I think when in handheld mode the looks far better, much more suited to the smaller screen where everything looks sharper and brighter. Playing handheld is probably the way to go rather than docked, which is always an odd suggestion. The only problem with that is the text is a little on the small side on the Switch’s screen.
For me, in a twin-stick shooter, it’s the gameplay that’s absolutely key. You can have all the story, visuals and audio you want, but if the gameplay isn’t there, the game is moot. Thankfully the gameplay is pretty awesome.
As you’d expect, the left stick controls your movement direction while the right stick decides your shooting direction. In this regard it’s seems pretty par for course, but Tachyon Project has it’s own little tricks up its sleeve to set it apart from the crowd.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game is that your health is based on time. You begin each level with a timer that counts down. Taking a hit from an enemy takes a chunk of seconds away and if the timer reaches zero then you fail. Therefore, getting constantly hit is bad and potentially lethal. On the other hand, to contest against your ever decreasing time, destroying an enemy will grant you an extra few milliseconds to the time you have left. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re taking out hordes of enemies it soon adds up to a maximum of 99 seconds. Personally I really enjoyed the ever increasing and decreasing of your health. It’s a system that made the tenseness of each level a rollercoaster ride. One minute you’re riding high, the next your scraping by.
The story mode isn’t the longest as there are only 10 levels, each consisting of six waves. Each wave has a different mission to accomplish which I really like. These can vary between destroying a certain amount of enemies, destroying one particular kind of enemy or surviving for a short amount of time. They’re not exactly inventive goals but they definitely make the game feel fresher than it otherwise would have if it was just a “kill all enemies” affair. It’ll probably take you less than a couple of hours to complete the main story so it doesn’t outstay its welcome. I think many of you will think that’s too short but I think it’s fair enough as the game does have other things going for it.
As you progress through the story mode you have a lot of options to curate your craft. There are 5 slots you can customise. The first one is your primary weapon. You begin with just a standard weapon but you can change it to other things like a machine gun, shotgun, missiles and so on. Two more slots are taken up by your secondary weapons which are mapped to the ZL and ZR buttons, respectively. You start off with an explosion which wipes out most enemies in your vicinity, your standard panic bomb you find in most shooters. It’s not long until you can switch these to proximity mines, a freeze bomb, a sentry turret amongst others. The final two slots are taken up by perks, the first of which is extra health, although these can be changed to make your ship faster, have more powerful shots, the ability to push back enemies and so on. While it’s really cool there are so many options for you to combine, I actually found very few of them to be useful. I tried almost everything I unlocked and yet I still had to venture back to: Machine gun, Explosions, Explosion, Health and Stronger Bullets. Not very adventurous, but probably the best combination I could find and it helped me overcome what can potentially be a tough game.
There are a mind blowing amount of different enemies in this game. Almost every wave you’re introduced to something new. Every enemy is distinctly designed so that you can quickly learn each of their different traits and how you can potentially deal with them. The large amount that you’ll come across means the stages don’t really get boring at any point because you’ll always be facing something new. There are even a few boss battles, while not particularly exciting, they keep the gameplay fresh and provide a solid challenge.
If I’m going to be honest, there are only two gameplay flaws in Tachyon Project that actually bother me. The first flaw is that the environments are quite boring. The arenas you face the enemies in are always just the same rectangular space. Sure, the background and colours may change, but it’s a shame they didn’t try something new for each level. The arenas could have been different shapes, had some obstacle in the middle, anything just to change it up a little and stop it feeling boring. There was a lot of potential here. I was going to include this in the visual part of the review but because it affects the gameplay so much it just had to go here.
The second flaw is also the biggest one in my opinion. In each wave of each level, it seems that enemies have a set spawn point that never wavers to circumstance. The problem comes when (very often) your ship is located on a spawning place and you unfortunately take unwarranted damage from a group of enemies joining the battle. Taking damage from spawning enemies happens all of the time and it’s really quite annoying as there’s not too much you can do about it unless you fail the level and remember for the next time you try. It only occasionally resulted in me failing a stage so it’s not game breaking by any means, but it’s something that just shouldn’t happen. A solution should have been to have enemies unable to spawn within a certain radius of your ship.
Tachyon Project has been out a while, with ports all over the place and it’s a shame to see this issue still being present even on this latest release. It was a problem I had with the Wii U version, it’s a problem I have with the Nintendo Switch version. It’s a missed opportunity to set things right.
Outside of the main story mode there’s a New Game Plus after you complete the story and there are also some challenge modes. These challenge modes all come from a simple endless challenge but they each have a special twist. In one of them you’re not allowed to use bombs, in another there are mines with ever increasing blast radii in the corner. It’s these challenge modes where score attack fans will feel right at home, and the surprising amount of different ones available is great.
If you’ve got friends around then you can play the game with up to four players. I only had the chance to play with a single other person for review, but what we did play in two-player co-op, we enjoyed it. It was both easier with more people and also more chaotic as you can’t guess which enemies will go for who. Definitely worth a go in my opinion.
What is rather surprising is that fact that you can play Tachyon Project with just a single Joy-Con. Yes, a twin-stick shooter, with just one stick. This time the face buttons do the shooting and aiming but it is restricted to just 8 directions, limiting your performance somewhat. Not ideal to play through the whole game like this, but it’s perfect for the Switch especially if you want to do local multiplayer while out and about.
At an unambitious £8.99 I would say that Tachyon Project is well worth the value. In this current eShop climate £8.99 is not a lot and I think the publishers, Eclipse Games, have chosen a very enticing price point. Sure the story mode isn’t the longest but don’t forget the challenge modes, new game plus as well as potential multiplayer options. There’s a deceptive amount of things you can do in Tachyon Project. The gameplay is definitely up there too and well worth the price.
Lots of enemy variety
Lots of challenge modes
Arenas are boring