Redux: Dark Matters Review (Dreamcast)
Nostalgia is a powerful drug. While shiny new HD consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are all the rage right now, a true gamer will never forget the gaming hardware from their childhood. Fans of classic consoles such as the NES, Super Nintendo and Genesis have had reason to celebrate recently, as brand new homebrew titles for these aging systems have come into existence, many of which have been funded by the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter. I recently reviewed two of these titles – Piko Interactive’s Classic Kong for SNES and Study Hall for NES. Now Hucast Games has released another Kickstarter-funded title – Redux: Dark Matters for the much-beloved, ill-fated Sega Dreamcast.
Redux: Dark Matters is a 2D side-scrolling shoot ’em up, in the vein of classic games such as Gradius and R-Type. If you’ve forgotten the challenge of the old days, you’re in for a bit of a shock as there’s no hand-holding in this game, and the difficulty ramps up very quickly. While the gameplay isn’t exactly fast-paced, there is always a barrage of enemies and projectiles headed your way, and you’ll definitely need to stay on your toes to survive. Memorizing attack patterns and gaining access to weapon upgrades early on will help you stay alive a bit longer, but the only way to get good at Redux: Dark Matters is to play the levels over and over again.
There are continues, but no saves. Once all your lives and continues have been used, it’s back to the beginning of the game for you. Luckily, there is a checkpoint system, a small bit of mercy that is greatly appreciated. Collecting power-ups is essential to victory, as each one builds your ship’s defense as well as offense. You eventually earn missiles that shoot vertically or horizontally, and laser beams that can ricochet off of walls. When you run out of lives, you’re sent back to the start of the current stage with all of your upgrades removed. Once you become accustomed to the layouts and enemy patterns of each level, the best strategy is to try and power through all the stages on one life – since the stages constantly increase in difficulty, you’ll absolutely need the extra firepower and shields. Playing on Veteran difficulty is only for masters of the genre, and I tip my metaphorical cap to anyone who defeats this mode. By the third level it becomes mandatory to learn and utilize your ship’s rechargeable shield ability, which soaks up enemy fire but depletes very quickly.
Redux: Dark Matters LE is a limited edition version that comes with Dux 1.5, a remixed, refined version of the original game Dux, which released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2009. Dux 1.5 and Redux: Dark Matters are very similar in both visual appearance and gameplay, and they are both great, arcade-style fun. Both titles feature fantastic music composed by Andre Neuman, and I found the soundtrack for Dux 1.5 particularly entrancing. The visuals are gorgeous, with beautifully rendered, moving backgrounds and large, well-defined sprites. The levels are varied and colorful, ranging from a deep-space asteroid field to industrial complexes and even a breathtaking cave with flowing waterfalls. While the crisp, detailed graphics look amazing in these screenshots – the game was clearly designed with HD platforms like Steam and PSN in mind – the presentation suffers a bit in motion on the Dreamcast’s standard definition output. When the screen becomes filled with fast-moving sprites, everything begins to look a bit blurry and ill-defined. Still, there’s no denying that Redux: Dark Matters is a pretty game to look at.
In short, if you still own a Dreamcast and are looking for an excuse to dust it off, Redux: Dark Matters fits the bill perfectly. The arcade-style gameplay is right at home in the Dreamcast library, and the ramped-up difficulty will please old-school fans searching for a challenge. The game’s visuals and music are stellar, but the presentation suffers a bit due to the Dreamcast’s 4:3 standard definition video output. The packaging looks great, with nice artwork and a two-page manual in a DVD-style case. If you’re looking for a bit of a retro fix, I highly suggest checking out Hucast Games’ Redux: Dark Matters.