The twin-stick genre isn’t one that offers a lot of enemy variety, doesn’t usually delve in to a story, or do much in the way of customization, and I think that played in to my overall enjoyment of Tachyon Project on Xbox One. Eclipse Games’ newest indie features all of the above, and does so while still maintaining the fast paced, shooty gameplay we’ve all come to enjoy.
In an interesting turn of events, you control Ada, a software program with self-awareness and the ability to hack in to the most secure servers on the planet. After your two creators are busted, you’re thrown in to the wild west of the internet where you’ll hack your way in to the database of police departments and corrupt organizations in hopes of finding information on the whereabouts of your creator parents. It’s nothing mind blowing, but it’s refreshing to see a story play out in a genre that usually doesn’t give a shit.
“The vast variety of enemies and large-scale boss fights give the game a lot more depth than your standard twin-stick…”
The story is played out through some nicely hand-drawn cut-scenes, and although there’s no voice acting, I don’t think that’s something that would have added to my overall enjoyment of the game. Having the text-based story play out on the bottom of the screen while being covered by stage-clearing Achievement pop-ups is a nuisance though, as cut-scenes play out by themselves. Hopefully we’ll eventually see a way to progress the text with a button press instead, but in the meantime you can always watch them again from the main menu if you miss anything.
Gameplay is pretty standard twin-stick shoot-em-up fare, as you make your way through waves of enemies with typical objectives, like surviving for a set amount of time, destroying a certain amount of a specific enemy type, or tackling one of the game’s four bosses. There’s no one-hit kills or a common life bar in Tachyon Project, but rather time is your life. Taking damage reduces the time remaining to finish your objective, which plays in to the hacking story and presents the game’s only challenge.
You gain additional time as you kill enemies, which is made even more enjoyable by the game’s variety of unlockable weapons and perks to customize your playstyle. Most are unlocked as you play through the short 10-level campaign, like machine guns or rockets, but some of the best ones are locked behind high-scores, like the ability to slow down time. It’s still shooty shooty bang bang no matter what loadout you go with, but combining power-ups that freeze enemies in place, boost your speed, or spawn decoys gives you a bit more control over how you’d like to dismantle the next wave of enemies. Without much of a cooldown period or requiring a collectable resource to use them, a lot of the more challenging waves can be cleared by simply spamming them as often as possible.
Speaking of enemies, Tachyon Project features over 30 different enemy types with their own distinct patterns and combat styles. There’s some pretty interesting ones as well, like Bulls that rush you and smash in to walls, others that spawn gravity altering portals that change the trajectory of your bullets, and some that provide shields to others nearby. The vast variety of enemies and large-scale boss fights give the game a lot more depth than your standard twin-stick, and was the highlight of the game for me.
As I mentioned earlier, the campaign is extremely short, clocking in at just under two hours for me. It’s not all that difficult either, as even the most challenging waves or bosses were handled in a small handful of attempts. There’s only one difficulty setting for the campaign, but there’s three different Challenge Modes that offer endless waves of enemies for up to 4-players on your couch. There’s no online support and everyone has to use the same loadout, but there’s a ton of fun to be had with your friends if you’re in to that sort of thing.
“…easily my favorite shoot-em-up on the Xbox One.”
The game looks pretty good on the Xbox One, although it’s not as bright and flashy as something like Geometry Wars 3. It’s still visually pleasing, with plenty of contrasting colors and a futuristic feel that, again, plays in to the hacker storyline. I did notice a bit of lag when my well placed proximity mines took out a screen full of baddies, but for the most part Tachyon Project runs just fine.
It may be a tad too easy and sure it’s a little short, but with its variety in enemy and weapon types, fun, fast-paced gameplay, three couch co-op options, and some sort of story–no matter how small–Tachyon Project is a breath of fresh air in the twin-stick genre, and, as of this review, is easily my favorite shoot-em-up on the Xbox One.
Recommended for fans of: 60 Second Shooter Prime, Geometry Wars 3, We Are Doomed.
*This review is based on the Xbox One version of Tachyon Project, which is also available on PC via Steam.