Zaxxon had a slick isometric look and had you dodging various obstacles, whilst shooting fuel tanks in order to reach the end of the level. In complete contrast, Uridium was a twitchy 2-D shooter – giving the player the rare freedom in those days to switch directions at the touch of a button. If you’re wondering why I’m talking about 64-bit games released over 30 years ago, well, if you smash these two classic games and their designs together you get Futuridium.
Futuridium’s concept is straightforward: before you run out of energy, navigate the level and its obstacles, whilst shooting all the crystals to escape (shooting crystals also increases your energy). Its premise sounds simple, and in many ways it is. But, underneath this basic concept is an old-school exercise in memorising level layout, pixel perfect shooting and flying – all whilst racing against the clock. What this means is that in order to succeed there’s little room for improvisation or level freedom – you need to find that optimum route through the stage, or fail and start right back from the beginning.
I don’t want to scare you off Futuridium, but it takes the classic “easy to play, difficult to master game” adage to a whole new level. The level of difficulty can be such that there’s little time for fun or enjoying the view – it’s straight to business every time. Whether you’re pursuing the fastest times or the highest scores – or simply surviving from one level to the next – there’s scarcely any margin for error and zero time to breathe. It’s an exhilarating, and often frustrating experience that will turn many players away before they’ve seen the best of what Futuridium has to offer.
Futuridium absolutely nails the fundamentals. It has a bright, clean and colorful aesthetic, and for a budget title it manages to outshine many of its higher-priced competitors. Controls handle perfectly, especially the one-button-press mechanic – turning you instantly 180 degrees and always ensuring a twitch-based gaming style throughout. Sound effects are punchy, whilst the excellent soundtrack (courtesy of le dégout) is more than than worthy of a mention. Many local gaming shops in my area that sell PlayStation 4 consoles still have this as their playable game on their PlayStation demo stand. After almost a year after release, this really is a ringing endorsement of how far Mixed Bag has taken its once mobile-only title.
I haven’t mentioned until now that Futuridium started its life as a mobile-only game, as it’s one of those rare occasions where it simply isn’t relevant from a gaming point of view. The versions differ so vastly in terms of content and controls – the only relevance is that Mixed Bag have had time to hone refine and improve upon their title for the PlayStation 4. The Extended Play Deluxe version brings all-new bosses, reworked controls, upgraded visuals, and much more.
Futuridium won’t be for everyone, and its high level of difficulty will more than likely split players right down the middle. Those expecting an easy-going, colorful space shooter or a free-roaming experience will come away disappointed. But old-school gaming purists will be right at home with its focus on high-scores, speed-runs and constant restarts.
Whichever side of the fence you fall on, there’s no doubting the quality of the game – especially from such a small indie developer. Go into this knowing what to expect, and you’ll find a modern-day classic just waiting to scratch that arcade itch.