Some time ago, Totally Game delved into the realm of Zombie Horror to bring us Corpses of the III Reich. This time, we enter the genre of Sci-Fi Horror. An alien virus has infected a spacecraft, and guess who's been asked to sort it out...?
Just like their previous offering, Core Salvage is a flash-based game that runs in your web browser. The controls are simpler than Corpses, being just arrow keys and spacebar. It is, however, a different game altogether. Platforms and gun-toting zombies are replaced by... Arkanoid!
Allow me to explain further. Your task is to free sections of the ship from the alien virus by bouncing an anti-viral ball about the room, deflecting it with your... vessel, attached to the right hand wall. You move up and down and you can control the ball direction by tilting your vessel. To complete each level you must open a portal to the next and knock the anti-viral ball into it.
Things are complicated when the portal is not open. Some levels require you to score points, by bouncing the ball off various blocks and your own bat, to open the portal. Bonuses are given for hitting certain blocks. There are also teleporters, viral things, blocks that activate special features (like a gun on your vessel to blast viruses with!), blocks that lock/unlock other blocks, conveyor belts and occasionally more than one ball in play. All these things are introduced over the initial group of levels.
Core Salvage is accompanied by a comic strip. Since the opening strip features a man being torn apart by green tentacles and rather adult themes it seems to be aimed at much the same teenage market as Corpses is! Robot girlfriends have no relevance to the game itself so including one in the intro seems a little strange. This rather interesting style of explaining the plot and controls is marred not just by spelling and grammar slips but also by sometimes confusing layouts and overly busy screens.
This is rather a shame as the comic strip is the high point of the graphics. The main game is functional and suitably moody (think dark industrial) but the design is rather square cut. On the plus side, animations are all smooth and the low-impact graphics reduce the loading time, a big advantage for a flash-based game.
There isn't much in the way of music in Core Salvage - a suitably heavy rock theme on the title screen and some background to the comic strip and first level is all that the demo had to offer. Curiously the title music stopped dead when I entered an invalid password in the level select box. Sound effects are okay, but seem rather lost in the background silence. Lots of metallic pings are most evident. I like the alarms when you lose (or nearly lose!) a ball.
My main concern is with the playability. The play area is quite small and the "bat" takes up a third of the right hand edge - so the game is fairly simple! Most of the levels consist of keeping the ball in play until you score enough to open the exit. The plot about viruses is irrelevant as destroying them all is not necessary! This must also be one of the few bat and ball games where you don't destroy the blocks.
Ultimately I found Core Salvage to be a game with some different approaches - like batting from the side instead of underneath - but somehow unsatisfying. Though competently produced, it feels a little flat - and there's a lot of competition out there.
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