capsule review

Torus Trooper

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Kenta Cho is a spectacularly talented game programmer who breathes new life into classic arcade games by fusing swirling shapes and colors with a stark, simple aesthetic. His latest creation, Torus Trooper, is a new take on the classic game Tempest.

Torus Trooper builds on the concept behind Tempest, in which you blasted swarms of alien baddies as they crawled up the walls of a long well. In Torus Trooper, you’re not stationed at the top of the well—you’re constantly winding down it. And the well is endless. What’s more, the walls shift and change. It’s like riding a wave through a black hole filled with alien spaceships.

In addition to using forward-facing weapons that spray your enemies with a hail of deadly gunfire, you can emit a charge shot. This superweapon takes longer to deploy, but it’s far more destructive, cutting through gunfire to blow your enemy to smithereens. The more stuff your charge hits, the more points you’ll rack up.

While you’re fighting off wave after wave of enemy ships, you’ll also have to contend with the clock, which starts its countdown the second you begin playing. When your time is up, the game is over. You can get extra time by destroying boss and miniboss ships—bad guys who are stronger and much more heavily armed than your average targets. And if all this gets too easy, you can up the challenge by switching difficulty levels, which include Normal, Hard, and Extreme. But don’t expect any additional customization. Unlike the Windows version, which lets you choose to play in windowed mode or change other settings, the Mac version doesn’t offer an obvious way to change any options.

The game’s graphics are gorgeous, complex, and smooth as silk—though appreciating their geometric beauty requires a different aesthetic sense than, say, looking at the latest 3-D effects in a first-person shooter. It’s part psychedelic and part cyberpunk. The game is also backed by a pumping electronic soundtrack that complements the stark yet lovely graphics.

You can download a free OS X version of the game. Don’t be concerned that the Web page is in Japanese. Just click on the link under the Torus Trooper heading.

The Bottom Line Kenta Cho is one of today’s best independent game programmers. You absolutely must give Torus Trooper a try. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself coming back to it again and again.

Torus Trooper is a trippy retro game that borrows generously from classics such as Tempest.
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