“Dodge, duck, reverse aim, snatch extra shield, avoid exploding square, too late, game over, tap retry”. Thus goes the internal monologue of the PewPew 2 addict.
The original Pocket Gamer Silver Award winner proved bedroom coder Jean-Francois Geyelin could affectionately ape the pixel-perfect precision of twin-stick shooters like Geometry Wars on Android touchscreens.
But a paid-for sequel needed something original to make it stand out from its hallowed forbearers, and – with an innovative new Campaign mode that puts some extra zap in the gameplay – Geyelin has found the magic neon bullet.
Nothing to campaign about
Available in Easy, Normal, or Hard flavours (though Challenging, Brutal, or Soul Destroying would be more appropriate), each of the two Chapters is divided into stages that must be unlocked in sequence to progress.
Levels each have a unique twist, ranging from claustrophobic battles in enclosed, rocky paths to being tethered to a bouncy wire with no option but to duck and dive around bad guys. The difficulty normally ramps-up halfway through to pile on the pressure.
Given the gruelling difficulty level, it’s helpful that PewPew 2’s controls are close to immaculate. Your ship nips around the levels swarming with enemies using the left virtual stick, while aiming is handled by constantly swirling bullets using the right controller.
In a game where milliseconds mean life or death, such tight – near console pad - controls are truly indispensible.
The game looks dazzling, too, with a swish neon wireframe aesthetic that also helps maintain the developer’s high FPS goal with a rock-solid framerate.
Meanwhile, a catchy Rez -style trance soundtrack provides a pounding accompaniment to the action.Scores and chores
Outside the campaign, you can compete with the world across a variety of challenges via the online leaderboard.
These are mostly tweaked versions of challenges in PewPew, such as basic ‘blast everything’ mode Pandemonium, and the convoluted Chromatic Chaos (where guns can only damage same-coloured opponents, forcing you to weave a path between colour-switching posts).
As a bonus, two seriously hardcore new game modes are unlocked when you complete the campaign. Amalgam mixes Pandemonium with the scrolling enemy waves of Assault, while Symbiosis is based on a Campaign level where two ships, controlled with each stick and linked by an elastic antimatter stream, work together to ensnare enemies.
PewPew 2’s only real weakness, aside from a bizarre lack of sound effects, comes from the scoring system.
You need to earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals to unlock better ships, which move faster and fire back automatically, but the high scores needed may seem ridiculously beyond the reach of newcomers.
The lack of score multipliers and paucity of weapon power-ups and extra shields means earning enough points to win Gold takes a sizeable amount of patient practice.
Put simply, if you’re more ‘hardcore’ than ‘casual’, PewPew 2 is an essential blast of arcade shooting to zap up from the Market.