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Published by Volumes Of Fun
Price $4.00
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

I tend to think of Space Invaders as the mother of all video games. I can remember quite vividly circa 1980, riding my old green pushbike down to the corner shop to shove 20c pieces into the machine and blast away (or even just to watch someone else) for what seemed like hours on end. At the time, I was convinced that it was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. So I tend to have a bit of a soft spot for Space Invaders clones, especially the well made ones.

The alien hordes approach. It's like UFOs are descending on my Minecraft base.

Voxeliens is indeed a Space Invaders inspired game, but it brings the experience into a 3-D realm where the player's cannon can move not just left and right, but also up and down the playfield. In a way it's a sort of re-imagining of the classic game from a more contemporary point in time, though Voxeliens manages to have quite a retro feel to it in its own right. Wave after wave of enemy UFOs blanket the voxel landscape and rain down bullets which can deform the terrain. The player cannon, which is shaped in homage to the old Space Invaders ship, slides around the landscape and fires back, clearing the hostiles until it is eventually overcome by the increasingly numerous waves of relentless enemies.

I really like the style of the game. The voxels are a great way to bring the old pixelated enemy shapes that we're all familiar with into a 3-D environment. Nostalgia value is present from the chip-tune backing tracks to the old school sound shot and explosion sound effects. There are some lighting effects when ships explode that when viewed from the right angle give the game a real artistic edge. Indeed, the game's main appeal may well be from an artistic perspective, since as a game it doesn't offer much more than its predecessor, made over 30 years ago.

My pathetic high score.

Arrow or WASD keys will move the ship over the landscape relative to the position of the camera. The camera can be rotated and zoomed with the mouse. The only other controls are for shooting, which use either mouse button (left or right) or the space bar. This setup works well, though there is an option that I suspect makes the ship move in absolute terms and independently of the camera it was a bit hard to tell. Either way, it can be tricky to align enemies with your blasts. I actually spend more time looking at the shadows that the UFOs cast on the ground than at the UFOs themselves.

Occasionally, enemies will drop powerups. The two that I have managed to obtain increase the rate of fire or number of projectiles fired from your command ship.

Past the initial interest in the voxel-shaped gameworld and the nostalgia value, I didn't find that much to keep me playing for more than a half hour or so. There are a number of areas where the game fails to engage me, although the core concept seems to be implemented reasonably well. I don't like the fact that you have to start from scratch each time you play. Most of the appeal of this game for me was to see the different enemy types and landscapes. Perhaps if the terrain was randomly generated each playthrough then it might be a bit more interesting? Playing the same levels over and over is not much fun.

The idea to use voxel terrain is great, but the enemy bullets could do more damage in my opinion, and the game could easily put particle effects and more interesting terrain deformation to good use. It's a little bland as is. The ship can squeeze under ledges for cover, but can only traverse the flat low-lying areas of the map, which is a little limiting and makes for periods of boredom while the player is forced to wait for the enemies to come into a position that they can be fired upon.

At four bucks, it's pretty hard to say that the game is overpriced. However, in its current state, Voxeliens feels a bit more like a concept promotion or tech demo. There's a lot of potential here, but the game is just too simple and suffers from a lack of customisation and variation to hold a modern gamer's attention for very long.

Graphics 90%
Sound 80%
Playability 35%
Longevity 20%
Overall Score 58%
Bronze Star

Published on 18 May 2012
Reviewed by Steve Blanch

Keywords: voxeliens review, volumes of fun reviews, volumes of fun games, voxeliens scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.