For a while now I have been talking about doing a Community Games Spotlight. Matter of fact, I have been talking about it for so long the games are no longer even called Community Games. They are Indie. I do not begrudge Microsoft the change if name. If I was a developer, I would rather have my game called Indie than Community. Still, it seems a little funny, and maybe more than a little discouraging, that things have changed that much.
Well, no matter. The 30 Reviews in 30 Days articles give me the perfect chance to review a few of the best ones out there.
And in my opinion, there is no better place to start than Groov.
Not just another Geometry Wars (Robotron) rip-off:
One thing you will find in the Indie Games section of Xbox Live is a lot of dual stick shooters. I can understand the reasons: relatively easy to make, simple mechanic and there is a segment of players who will always gravitate to them. Still, it becomes a little depressing to see the same basic design repeated over and over again. Of course, the remakes of Pong are even worse, but I digress.
So you can imagine my hesitance when I stumbled across Groov. After all, it was another in the long line of games trying to cash in on the success of Geometry Wars. Still, the description did catch my eye. Something about a dual stick shooter with a jazz fusion touch sounded intriguing. I downloaded the trial, tried it once, and was hooked.
You did not read that wrong. Groov takes the standard dual stick shooter and brings in a unique musical twist. You are not just flying around your little box shooting enemies, you are building a jazz fusion piece as you play. Each shot fired is the stroke of fingers on a keyboard. Enemies take on unique sounds, be they the strum of a base, blast of a well timed horn or a little bit of scat voice.
Think you’re looking at another Geometry Wars clone? Think again.
These enemies don’t just vanish immediately, either. They turn white, which allows you to fly through them. They then fade out with timing that matches the music. This “symphony” is calm enough when the battlefield is relatively light, but as things get more frantic, so does the music. You go from a relaxing jazz mix to a frantic, pulsing rhythm that is only matched by the harried travel of your ship.
On top of that, you cannot really use the standard conventions of dual shooters to get you through the levels. Like to stay in to the sides? You’ll start seeing more and more of the “Horn” enemies, which materialize on the sides. Think the corners help by cutting down the the angles from which you can be attacked? How about enemies that care not what boundaries are laid before them. You will also need to pay attnetion to when enemies turn white. Not all do it on first shot.
So you are severely outnumbered, just like any dual stick shooter. The game creators have to give you something to help even the odds, right? Well, they do: a time slowing mechanic. That’s right; in the middle of the hectic fights, you have a limited number of times you can slow down time, which slows enemies, music…everything except you. Sounds great, right? Well it is, but ther is one small catch. You can only activate it on the downbeat of the music.
Skip to the good part
If you play enough dual stick shooters, you know there is one major problem with them. Just as things get really good, you lose your last life. You are pumped until you realize you have to work your way back through all the ealry parts of the game again just to get to the good part.
Well, Groov gives you the chance to unlock the Expert Remix mode once you score enough in the regular. Expert Remix throws you right into the best part of the game with limited time slows and 1 life. You go from zero to frantic in no time flat, and you’ll love every minute of it.
There is also a Jam Session mode, but you have to score 25,000 in Expert Remix to unlock that. Let’s just say I’m not that good yet.
It’s nice to see someone take a tried and true mechanic and turn it around a bit. Besides, you can get Groov for 200 points, and I gauruatee you will get more than $2.50 worth of enjoyment out of the game. Don’t believe me? Check out the demo for yourself. Groov gets a 5 out of 5.