Review: Devader

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Review copy provided by developer

It’s hard to make a twin-stick arcade shooter worth sticking with, honestly. I talked about it a bit when I tried Tesla vs. Lovecraft, how the game feel and sense of power are so key to making the experience worth sticking with. Beyond that, though, you can get a lot of mileage out of unique elements like combat mechanics and foes. Devader has a solid basis for its action, and some neat options for upgrades added to spice things up a bit. But it’s the enemies that really steal the show here, from the nigh-countless hordes of mechanical walkers to the massive, spidery crawler to the unfathomable projections of primal force. It’s one of the few arena shooters I’ve stuck with just to see what it could possibly throw at me in later levels, because the scope of these creatures can get plenty wild.

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All that remains of an advanced alien civilization lies locked away in a cluster of hexagonal vaults. Your ship answers an automated distress call from the site to find the Krin, a mysterious alien force, bearing down on this final bastion. Fortunately you came prepared, deploying your heavily-armed Devader unit to the surface to ward off the attack. You’ll have access to all kinds of weaponry, turrets, bombs, and more in your struggle, and you’re going to need every bit of kit you can find. The Krin are swift, relentless, and bewilderingly varied in their approaches to destruction. Survive long enough and you’ll get access to powers that can devastate whole armies, just in time to have unearthly armies bearing down on you.

From the moment you touch down on the planet, you’ll be beset by countless foes appearing from everywhere. The arena is always the same, a barren patch of land marked in the center by the mysterious core. It’s your job to wipe out the invaders before they destroy the entire core, across 49 waves of potential annihilation. Every seven or eight waves you’ll get a little respite to add skill points to your build an unlock a new power, all the way up to the final engagements. This one consideration, introducing new abilities consistently through the game, does a lot to keep motivation high as the battles get trickier. They’re really neat powers, too, like choices between tactical nukes or EMP blasts, assault drones or shield units, or giant glowing balls of destruction or healing.

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Devader also doesn’t want you to get confused in the face of all these build options, so it helpfully describes everything offered to you and even lets you know which choices are good for novices or experts. By the end of the game you’ll have multiple guns, missiles, drones, deployables, and battlefield features to keep track of, so the detailed tutorial text is a welcome sight. The game can get pretty messy visually as well, much in the way something like SYNTHETIK does with its garish colors, blast marks, particle effects, and so on. Thankfully the controls are tight and responsive, and your targeting reticle is bigger and more garish than anything else. Threats tend to be pretty clearly telegraphed, especially during the more bullet-helly segments, which is another plus.

As solid as the gameplay mechanics are, though, it’s the enemies that are the real highlight of Devader. You’re starting out with a pretty interesting look anyway, with the hexagonal core and the chunky machine you’re piloting. Early enemies are mostly mechanical spider-walker things in huge numbers, but your foes are going to get very weird very fast. You might see colored balls pouring into the arena only for them to sprout dozens of legs and start skittering around. Ominous segmented creatures will fall from the sky, spewing dense patterns of starry energy. Sentient black holes, massive energy rings, and screen-filling amalgamations of tentacles are all enemies you might face if you get far enough into the waves. There’s an almost Evangelion quality to foes, especially bosses, where you may be left wondering how these creatures could function or even exist, and marvel at their bizarre nature as they take action against you.

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Beyond the creativity of the enemies and some of your upgrade options, Devader is a pretty standard twin-stick game. The waves are randomized a bit but a good run will take you less than an hour to run through, leaving little but the different difficulty levels to challenge you. Seeing new monsters and trying new builds is certainly fun, but longevity may be an issue here if discovery isn’t enough of a motivator. Still, I can’t easily dismiss a game with such neat foes and solid gameplay, and neither should you. For intense action and spectacle, Devader is one of the better arena shooters out there, and is definitely worth a look.

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