as reviewed by Banov
YoYoGames - http://www.yoyogames.com/games/2358
Dev Website - http://www.cactusquid.com/
Cactus (for those of you who are unaware) is one of the premier indie game developers of our time, and among the most well known Game Maker developers today. People who use Game Maker should probably in some way thank Cactus, who was among the first to put out some of the seriously good games that helped Game Maker "break out" into the larger indie scene. He's known for trippy, funny action games with unique visual styles and challenging gameplay. Clean Asia represents the epitome of this design, and is widely considered Cactus' best work.
The story is that all of humanity's eyeballs have betrayed their masters, fleeing into space and returning with spaceships that they use to terrorize the continent of Asia. There are only two humans left who can combat them because of their powerful sixth sense, and each one has a custom built ship.
Gameplay in Clean Asia is all about debris--as you destroy enemy ships, piece by piece, bits of debris fly off which you can utilize in your continuing assault. Each ship uses the debris differently. The Attractor pulls debris in like a magnet when you hold down the X button, surrounding itself in a cloud of enemy ship bits; by pressing Z it can fire off the debris piece by piece, or by releasing X it can release all of its debris at once for a devastating blast. When it has no debris, it's only method of attack is a "dash" move which it can use to break apart the enemy ship. It can also pick up and use the guns some enemies drop. The Reflector plays a little more conventionally; it absorbs debris automatically and uses it as a source of power for various typical shooter mechanics like a regular shot, charge shot, and even a shield and a bomb. Each ship plays differently enough that going through the same level once with each ship feels like a totally different level.
The levels themselves consist mostly of a series of bosses, each with a unique bullet pattern and shape. There are 3 levels: Thailand, New Korea, and China, each with a very different set of enemies. The most unique one is China, which provides you with a constant stream of empowering debris form the bottom oft he screen, but pits you against the highest bullet count in the game with enemies whose shots go half for you and half for the machines that support you with debris. It's worth noting that this game is hard. Crazy hard. You will die a lot the first time you play this game. Players who rise to the challenge and get to the end of a level are presented with a score screen that gives you the time you spent on each enemy, giving you a score to beat.
Playing Clean Asia, you can get a real sense of power; you start off with no debris, fending off enemies, but as you break apart bosses and use their debris to attack them, your collection of debris gets larger and larger until your every shot practically annihilates a boss. But no matter how huge your debris collection is, you're always one shot away for dying and going back to 0. In each level you're given 3 lives, and when you run out it's game over and you're sent back to the title screen. My one complaint for this game would have to be that restarting a level is a bit tedious, since there's no simple restarting option; every time you lose, you have to go through the title screen, character select, and level select again to play. It's a minor user interface fault in an otherwise pristine game.
Gameplay aside, the game is a visual/audio masterpiece with a cool thumping set of atmospheric tunes and bright, mesmerizing neon vector graphics. There's no shortage of eye candy while you play with colorful explosions and a constantly changing background; players can really appreciate the attention to visual detail Cactus worked in. The game was a finalist in the 2008 Indie Games Festival awards for "Excellence In Visual Arts" and "Excellence in Audio," and anyone who plays can see why.
If you enjoy this game you'll almost certainly love the other works Cactus, which you can find on his site. He's one of the more prolific developers today so for fans of Cactus there's never any shortage of new games and gameplay to try out.
Edited by banov, 03 December 2010 - 12:52 AM.