Platform reviewed : PS4
When I first picked up Futuridium Extended Play Deluxe, I didn’t expect much. I’m an Audiosurf fan, so the idea of destroying blocks in a spaceship to catchy music already felt appealing, but Futuridium didn’t look as colorful and dazzling as Audiosurf, and was graphically simple, and though the game promised good music, I couldn’t choose any of it. I didn’t expect much as I was launched into the game, flying past the only bare-bones information I would receive:
You’re trapped in a futuridium loop.
Your energy is depleting.
Press X to shoot.
R1 / R2 to go faster.
Destroy blue cubes to replenish energy.
Destroy all the blue cubes.
Press square to go back.
Just to expand upon this, you fly in your spaceship over an obstacle course. Your job is to shoot at blue cubes arranged along the track. You want to do this for two reasons: it’s how you complete the level, and you need it to replenish your constantly depleting energy. If you get to the end of the track or miss something, simply press the square button to do an about-face so you can shoot at what you missed. Once all the blue cubes are destroyed, a “core” appears somewhere along the track. Destroy it to complete the track, earn up to three awards Angry Birds style for your performance, and move on to the next track.
The beginning tracks were very simple. They were short, linear, and easy to navigate and complete without running out of energy, and contributed to my low expectations for the game. It was only a few tracks in that I began to experience the real potential of Futuridium EP Deluxe.
Before we get into that, a little background–and I do mean a little. Futuridium EP Deluxe is the very first game from MixedBag, a little indie studio in Turin, Italy. It would appear from the “About” section of the studio’s website that it is run by only two people (co-founders Mauro Fanelli and Andrea Gellato) with assistance from “collaborators” Omar Ferrero and Luca Gasperoni. Futuridium is available on PC and Mac for free and also iOS for $1.99 USD, but the deluxe version is only on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
As you advance through the levels, the tracks quickly expand, becoming more and more complex. Blue blocks appear both above and below the track, and become increasingly challenging to reach without crashing into part of the track–or the blue block itself. Suddenly, even within the first Zone, there is no track below you at all; there’s a big, open cube that you fly through, destroying blue blocks suspended within while avoiding a slowly-spinning propeller. Suddenly, there are turrets shooting at you as you pass by, and rings that you fly through to make blocks appear or temporarily boost your speed. Suddenly, I found myself having a lot of fun playing Futuridium EP Deluxe.
No zone in any game is complete without a boss fight or two, and Futuridium, surprisingly, delivers. I became very aware of the creativity within the game when I met The Box, which first appears to as a cube. As you get nearer, it begins to rumble, its sides begin to turn, and all six of them separate to reveal the blue boxes inside. Unfortunately for me, it began to rumble again while I was inside collecting cubes, and the walls closed around me, and I inevitably crashed.
It’s such a simple boss, but it’s so creative considering the simplicity of Futuridium’s concept as a whole. It’s just a game where you fly along a track shooting blue cubes, yet Mixed Bag was able to expand it in a way that was logical and entertaining to create a truly addictive little space shooter. The Box marks only the beginning; there are five zones and fifty tracks to conquer, excluding bonus tracks that award you with skins for your spaceship, and it is not simple.
Don’t misunderstand that “truly addictive” line: Resogun this is not. Even so, what’s great about it is that despite my comparisons, it’s not trying to be Resogun, and it’s not trying to be Audiosurf. It’s its own little game, doing its own little thing, and hauling along tons of potential. The way the levels expand can keep you engaged, and the tried-and-true reward system after each level encourages you to return to improve your performance.
It’s not without its faults, however. For one, there isn’t much context to what you are doing. For example, you’re told in the beginning that you’re in a “futuridium loop” but you are not told what that means. Let the main menu idle enough and you’ll get an interesting yet uninformative little backstory across a few screens, but that’s about it, and it leaves more questions than it answers. There’s no ingrained goal; gamers must simply destroy all the blocks. I mentioned Rovio’s Angry Birds earlier. In that game, the birds are angry at the pigs because the pigs took the birds’ eggs. That’s the entire reason you spend hours flicking birds across your screen. Games like this don’t need a big backstory, but if Mixed Bag wanted to include one, it should have at least made it as clear and complete as that.
Energy is your fuel in the game, and it depletes over time. That fuel is replenished by destroying blocks in the game, which you naturally want to do anyway. The problem is that it’s not replenished much. Destroying five blocks in a row won’t grant you more than a few extra seconds in the game, and in some tracks the blocks are spread out enough that destroying that many in a row is not even possible. Worse, if you have been doing your job correctly, blocks are scarce when you probably need them most: at the end of the game. Desperately boosting toward those last two blocks with a tiny bit of energy left and destroying them does absolutely nothing for you when the core arrives and you then have to make your way to destroy it. The amount of energy you get from destroying blocks is something that Mixed Bag could have planned better.
Futuridium promises excellent music, and as a fan of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) I agree that its music is great. Unfortunately, while the rhythms are nice and adrenaline-boosting, the music often provides little melody, and tends to fade into the background as you play. There are only a couple songs that are not heavy house (a sub-genre of EDM) beats, but that’s about it. The music fits the theme of the game, but there isn’t much variety, even between songs of the same style. For a small indie studio’s first game, however, it could be much worse. The music itself is rather good, and if you have a Vita, you get the entire soundtrack for free.
Futuridium EP Deluxe retails for $12.49/€9.99. It is a Cross-Buy title for both PS4 and PS Vita, and includes the original sound track free of charge for those with a Vita. You receive the music by downloading a Vita app that transfers it to your Vita’s music folder. Futuridium is a game that will reward persistent gamers with creative levels and bosses. It can be challenging and suspenseful, but most of all, it’s fun to play. Alone, I would say that $12.49 is a bit steep, but with Cross Buy and the original soundtrack included, it is well worth its price–and the 20% launch discount for PlayStation Plus members makes it even better.