Aperion Cyberstorm Review
Release Date: February 8, 2018
Publisher/Developer: aPriori Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Wii U, Steam, coming soon to Xbox One
Aperion Cyberstorm is a twin-stick shooter that tries something different. Rather than pure neverending arcade action, you are treated to a game with a story about a team of pilots that was mysteriously split up two years ago, and your search for your team leads you into an intriguing conspiracy storyline. There is an onslaught mode for those wanting an ever increasing wave style of game play, and also a versus mode. The biggest difference is that every mode can be played with up to five players.
Nintendo and the Switch continue to be a major source of fun in my house. The four of us (including me, my gamer kid, my younger just getting into games kid, and my not-so-much-a-gamer wife) have been circling around the Switch as a major source of party gaming. We run Mario Kart, Monopoly, or someone solos Breath of the Wild with the help and encouragement of the others. (Peak gaming is my wife, who's doing pretty good for a non-gamer, who gets on BotW for "a little bit."...two hours later...) We're all looking forward to Labo as well, assembling pieces and seeing what we can do. Aperion falls right into that niche as well, offering an instant multiplayer experience. The game can be played with everything from the Pro controller down to the individual JoyCon.
Graphics and sounds make this title feel right at home a couple of decades ago, but not in a bad way. The strong neons and flat colors combined with smooth framerates and busy hellscapes of enemies make this feel like an Atari age game that actually plays with the rose-colored glasses you remember it through. The dynamic music ramps up as you enter a battle room, and the thumping beat keeps the action pumpinng. Instead of one open arena, the story mode finds you pushing your way through a series of caverns. Making it to a new open area locks you in, and wave after wave of enemy will spawn until you kill them all, opening up the next area. As you progress, you find and unlock different ships with different stats, as well as a collection of weapons and power ups that, when combined properly, can cause massive damage.
Customization is the name of the game. (Well, the name is Aperion Cyberstorm, but you get what I mean.) In Campaign, you unlock the above mentioned ships and harder difficulties. In Versus, you can choose your vessel, battle type, and tweak just about every option to keep the game balanced or give yourself an advantage. Onslaught unlocks more battlefields with higher scores. The game starts with a healthy array of options, but the more you play the more you'll find. It's more of the same, generally, but tweaked to harder difficulties to keep you coming back.
I'd say that my biggest complaint about the game is also it's greatest asset: it's obvious that this game is designed to work best as a massive multiplayer game. Aperion supports up to five player couch co-op, and each added player adds more to the rainbow of bullets that dance around the screen. The game will ramp up difficulty as you go up in player numbers. More action and more bullets make the game more fun, as early levels in the solo mode feel a bit of a slog. Enemies continue to respawn after you get into a room, making you not feel that much progress. The flat neon aesthetic makes you feel as if each enemy you destroy just makes a couple more phase in, and I found myself wondering when a room would finally finish, which isn't as noticeable when you're teaming up, since you're yelling at each other to strategize. Bullet hell and multiplayer make it hard to follow story as well, since you're usually focused on this instead of seeing what happens in the campaign.
Enemy ships follow classic stylings. There's the one that rushes you, the wave blaster, the one that splits like old-school asteroids. At first you have simple rooms that teach you each enemy type, but as you continue the waves increase and become more varied. You really have to learn the patterns to survive. Personally, I'm not fond of the ones that can go through the environment walls, because I keep thinking I can go there, but I suppose that's one I'll just have to figure out on my own.
Even though this is a cheaper game, at only $14.99, it can get expensive if you want to play a true five-player mode and don't have a full regimen of JoyCon. With a twin-stick shooter, it's odd to only have one stick. The four buttons on a single JoyCon act as a spare stick, but they limit you to an 8-way shot style, which can really hinder your precision in a heated battle. You can also turn on an auto-fire mode, that immediately shoots at the nearest enemy. I'm a bit torn with this, as it allows for easier gaming on a single JoyCon, but it also simplifies the game immensely, making it less of a challenge. Both single JoyCon options are good for a quick arcadey blast, but not if you have a team of diehards. Amazingly, the game has been released for Wii U as well, so if you have a good combination of controllers there already, you can get the same experience. It's available on PC, and will be on the Xbox One soon.
Aperion Cyberstorm is to me a lot like a twin-stick Dynasty Warriors. Enemies are relentless as you pound your way through the maps, and powerups can turn the tables when all hope seems lost. The five-player modes are a welcome and fresh addition to the genre, though not everyone may be equipped for such a feat. Gameplay is repetitive, as arcade shooters tend to be, but those raised on such titles will find it addictive as they shoot for a perfect run. The neon-retro vibe is colorful and fun, and the thumping soundtrack adds to the chaotic atmosphere. Fans of twin stick shooters will be mildly disappointed if all they ever do is solo mode, but get some friends over (or throw some of the AI bots into versus mode) for a wild and crazy time.
-Love the atmosphere, like rose-colored glasses on an Atari game
-Five player chaos is lots of fun
-Wow! Thanks for still supporting the Wii U!
-Need more JoyCons-prefer full set for each of five players
-Very slow starting in solo mode
-Neon is great, but when the screen gets very crazy you can get lost
Special thanks to aPriori Digital for providing a copy for review!