A GEM of a side-scrolling shooter

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS -

At its best, this makes you feel like a tightrope walker, deftly strut­ting the line of com­bat with a jar of sweets in one hand and a boom­box pump­ing techno in the other. You zip a space­ship around colour­ful, side-scrolling lev­els, blast­ing away at bad­dies big and small. Some en­e­mies try to ram you, some fire bul­lets at your ship. It all adds up to a fran­tic scram­ble through the hordes to reach the end of each level1 – and then you do it all over again to try for a high score, and brag­ging rights.

It looks fan­tas­tic, all ex­plo­sions of pur­ple and yel­low, but GEM’s real strength is the bal­ance of its com­bat. You’ve got four flashy weapons: a blaster, a swirling en­ergy sword, mis­siles, and a pow­er­ful laser beam. The blaster over­heats if you spam it while the other three con­sume en­ergy, which you col­lect from dead en­e­mies. So, use your weapons too much and you’ll run out of juice, but at the same time ag­gres­sion nets you more kills, earn­ing back en­ergy and boost­ing your combo score. You’re al­ways tee­ter­ing on the edge of that bal­ance, and get­ting it right so you can shoot your way out of a tight spot feels great.

The two black spots are the lack of level va­ri­ety – all 36 look ba­si­cally the same2 ex­cept for the colour pal­ette – and the pac­ing of each stage. Kill a cer­tain num­ber of en­e­mies and they’ll stop spawn­ing, slow­ing the pace as you hunt down the strays. It’s an­ti­cli­mac­tic. But over­all, this is a sat­is­fy­ing shoot-'em-up. It won’t grip you for hours on end, but its com­bat will keep you dip­ping back in oc­ca­sion­ally to blast your friends off the leader­boards. Sa­muel Horti

FOOTNOTES1 Dash is a life­saver: squeeze RT to zoom for­ward through en­e­mies with­out taking any dam­age. 2 Each level is an infinite loop, so it doesn’t mat­ter whether you head left or right.

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