Game Reviews


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| Neoteria
| Neoteria

As someone who grew up on the likes of R-Type, when I learned that retro developer OrangePixel (Meganoid, Stardash, Super Drill Panic) had fired an old skool shmup onto the Android Market I couldn't resist.

After a few minutes of Neoteria, however, it became clear that something had gone painfully awry.

The 8-bit sprites, hypnotic enemy waves, and chipper chip-tunes are all present and correct, but the movement of your starfighter is light years behind the rest of the action.

Fast, intuitive movement that’s at one with your alien-zapping instincts is what a classic blaster needs, so being stuck piloting the intergalactic equivalent of mobility scooter just won’t cut it.

Invaded space

Surprisingly for such a traditional shooter, there’s a thread of a plot running through the game. Neoteria is under attack from marauding invaders, and before each stage you’re given a mission briefing presented as a brief text chat between your pilot and his commander.

From then on, it’s straight-down-the-line 2D shooting, with your goal being to get from one end of the stage to the other, picking off enemies as you go and trying not to collide with the craggy scenery.

Each of the handful of levels is multi-staged and culminates in a climactic boss fight, where you need to dodge telegraphed attacks and pick off vulnerable sections (normally the weapons) before finishing the leviathan off.

There’s a fair amount of variety in the enemy types. There are ones that hide in the ground before launching at you, and mines that expand with each laser blast, as well as traditional waves that need to be thinned out before they get close enough to cause damage.

Ducking and dying

But you quickly realise that the only way to make progress is to rote learn the layout of each level and find a path that offers the least resistance.

To explain, your only weapon is pretty weedy and the sluggish ship movement means acts of derring-do normally end in a painful return to the restart screen.

There are two control methods available, but neither of them is close to allowing for the dexterity the enemies demand.

The default Simple system only gives you 'up' and 'down' arrows to manoeuvre with and a 'shoot' button on the right. It's too simple, and not being able to move forwards or backwards means even the simplest enemy wave is near unavoidable.

So you'll try the 360 controls, and for a few seconds at least you'll enjoy the comparative freedom offered by a virtual joystick that appears wherever you rest your thumb.

Then you’ll crash into a wall. And then you’ll do it again. And finally you’ll realise that movement is actually worse now thanks to sticky controls that can’t keep up with digits.

Shot down

Even with a physical controller (like a PS3 pad on a Honeycomb tablet), your ship just flies too slowly to navigate the cramped levels. And its non-upgradable laser cannon is sluggish, too, even failing to fire at all sometimes.

In the initial Easy mode, Neoteria seems unnecessarily difficult, but once you unlock the Normal and Hard missions - which are teeming with enemies - it’s near enough impossible.

This is a shame, as OrangePixel has obviously put a lot of effort into matching the old skool charms of '80s and '90s shmups. It just seems to have missed the most important one - playability.


A retro feast for the eyes and the ears that’s let down by sluggish, unreliable controls and damp squib shooting
Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
A newspaper reporter turned games journo, Paul's first ever console was an original white Game Boy (still in working order, albeit with a yellowing tinge and 30 second battery life). Now he writes about Android with a style positively dripping in Honeycomb, stuffed with Gingerbread and coated with Froyo