Kinesis: Return to the World Ring
Not too many weeks ago I reviewed a bat and ball game and wrote of my worries about how new games in that genre would really struggle to convince me of their worth. With that game (Mega Bounce 2) I was right to be concerned but is it true for all new games in the genre? Can Kinesis deliver or will it simply add to my angst?
Well, the good news is that Kinesis is trying something different. It isn't a plain old bat 'n' baller with the usual powerups and cliches. Instead, you are greeted on startup with a story! You don't really need a narrative of course, but I haven't been given a reason for playing this genre since Arkanoid. So, I was happy to read all about the Ancients, a race of beings who built a World Ring to surround the planet and protect it. Your job within this story is to pilot a ship which can harvest the Ring power source of stardust. Yes!
Having a story is all well and good, but does it matter? In this case, I think it does. Your mission to collect stardust is actually a game mechanic that I haven't seen elsewhere. The stardust helps power an internal force system on your ship, basically a shield. Your shield deteriorates with every hit of your plasma shot (ball) so it is essential that you collect the falling stardust during play to prevent your ship from losing all power and exploding.
Where do you find stardust? In a bat and ball game, it is found inside of the bricks that make up the levels. And how many levels do you get? A lot, and that's without the level editor. To be honest, level counts for this game style are usually both high and irrelevant, the important factor is how much fun they are to play.
Did I have fun playing Kinesis? Well, yes and no. The game has some really good aspects that make you want to play but it also has some major flaws that let it down. The good points, on paper at least, are very good. You are given lots of gameplay modes including Onslaught, Survival, Dual, Graviton and Versus which allow you to try out new ways to play an old genre. Another neat feature is the ability to add modifiers such as the Dust Optimiser, Delimiter and Plasma Accelerant to your ship. These add-ons can change the gameplay in a huge number of ways and a really interesting addition to the gameplay.
With the highs come a number of lows. Firstly, general presentation is really lacking. Good visuals aren't the most important aspect for this game style but the graphics feel dated and leave you with a sense of wanting more. Navigation around the game menus is also difficult so you may not find some of the game's features.
And then we have the difficulty. Most players would easily conquer many levels in a bat 'n' ball game but Kinesis makes this task more difficult than most thanks to the need to collect stardust. Each hit of the plasma ball lowers your energy and you quickly find that there isn't enough stardust to survive, especially towards level end.
Modifiers help with this difficulty but these helpful additions usually come with a sting in their tales. For example, one modifier allows you to hit the ball without taking damage - but as a result you are knocked off-course with each collision making close-quarter play extremely difficult.
With all that said however, I did enjoy Kinesis. It isn't the best of the best but if you're a genre fan, the game offers enough new features to hold your attention for a while. The low asking price is a definite plus and is part of the reason for the higher score. If a Kinesis 2 came along with improved presentation and visuals, developer Gamesare would be on to a winner!
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