Like I wasn’t going to give a game called Inksplosion that looks like this a try.

A big splat of colour within a green border

You know, me liking colours and all that.

Let’s just stop for a second again and do another screenshot (all pics here taken from the Steam page because I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting the ones off my PS4, sorry)

A light blue border, a splat of colour. This time the sprites are easily visible, they're white abstract designs with bold black outlines.

Yeah, there was absolutely no way I was going to let this pass me by.

Just look at those colours, they’re fantastic. Go on, let’s do one more picture.

Like someone has tipped paint on the screen, a splurge of colour stretches out across the screen in yellow, greens and blues. Some white sprites with black borders are visible amongst the noise.

It’s some sort of visual hybrid of (my own) War Twat and the all time greatest Asteroids game of all time, Spheres Of Chaos. That’ll do me.

Sorry. I’ll calm down now. I’m okay. I haven’t been this excited about colours in a game since Ultralight Beam. It’ll pass in a second.

Anyhoo. As twin stick shooters go, there’s probably few surprises here. You’re faced with a jumble of waves and each wave finds you having to use a different weapon to clear the screen. Clear the screen, move on to the next wave. You now have a different weapon. Shoot those baddies! Clear the screen! And so on.

There isn’t really that much to distinguish each weapon from the other and as far as I played, not much to distinguish each enemy from the other either. But that’s okay, yeah? I’m not playing this for mechanical marvels, I’m playing this because I really really like watching colours explode across the screen and Inksplosion does that perfectly.

Inksplosion is, primarily, a game about making things explode to smear colour across the screen. Every thirty seconds or so the mess will be cleared up and you get to do it all over again.

My only real gripe is that the announcer that declares each weapon you find yourself suddenly equipped with comes across more Viv Stanshall On Tubular Bells than befitting of an arcade game but I’ll freely admit that I have very, very specific ideas of what speech in arcade games should sound like. Also, I dearly love a lot of Bonzo stuff but Tubular Bells brings me out in hives. Not sure I can put the blame for that on Inksplosion, really.

Phew. Got a bit lost there, sorry. Anyway. Inksplosion set me back about four quid and I don’t regret a penny of it. I plumped for the PS4 version but other formats are available.

It seems kinda fitting that after a fairly lengthy enforced absence from playing much in the way of videogames, the first game I want to post about is by Tom Sennett, author of the last game I posted about.

Ultralight Beam is the perfect distillation of the be-positive-scribblepunk aesthetic Tom’s been working with for years and as aesthetics go, it’s definitely one of my favourites. Combine that with an arena collect ’em up? Yeah, I’m down for that, alright.

A scribbly screen with STAY COOL in green letters.

Look, you just collect stars and avoid monsters, right? There’s not really that much to explain.

A screen with REJECT PEER PRESSURE on it. It is a pic of the game, promise.

But sometimes you don’t need much more than collecting stars and avoiding monsters.

A screen with TALK TO THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU on it. It's all very colourful.

Because sometimes avoiding monsters and collecting stars feels really fucking good.

Quit your job, in big letters

And when the game looks and sounds really good too?

Bands of colour with the score "130" overlaying them.

Don’t look at me to go picking at it, wondering if and where it could be better.

This screen reads "escape your life"

Sometimes I just want to feel good, y’know?

It's the words Ultra Light Beam across bands of colour
It's the words "get stars" with lots of scribbly stuff going on.
It's the words "avoid monsters"

Yeah.

Originally posted May 2016, updated January 2021

A screenshot from the game Funtime. It is a neon lit maze in space, there's pink spikes, yellow squares and red and yellow barriers as obstacles. A red spaceship is trying to escape.
A screenshot from Funtime. A mazey bit, at that.

Back in glowing arena shooter territory (you know, for a change), I’ve been playing a fair bit of Funtime recently. It’s enjoyable!

If you’re already well acquainted with Geometry Wars RE 2 then the arcade modes will be fairly familiar. You’re plonked in the middle of an arena, glowing things are going to attack you, you shoot them before they kill you. Videogames!

A screenshot from the game Funtime. It's over on the right side of a glowing arena, an enemy sprays colourful particles whilst a bunch of other colourful enemies accumulate ready to give the player a hard time.
Particle spuffing enemies right here.

I’ll be honest, that was all I really wanted from it and it acquits itself well in that department. I’ve easily sunk a few hours into it and been really happy, all told. Would recommend etc…

It’s worth noting that the survival modes (as they’re known) come in three flavours too, each presenting a different sized arena. I found the initial survival mode a bit too cramped and the third choice, “open”, where the game moves to an infinitely scrolling asteroid field, a bit too much. Large, on the other hand, is where I’ve settled.

There are other modes, mind. The main attraction is a colour switching dodge and shoot variation, navigating the arena requires a lot of button pressing to ensure the player is the right colour at the right time and constant movement is a must.

It's Funtime. Still neon stuff, there's some colourful lasers stretching across the screen this time.
Lasers. Every game needs lasers.

Not going to lie, I couldn’t play it. That’s not really a slight on the game, I’m just older and more sore these days and my ability to rapidly button mash is not what it was. I genuinely couldn’t tell you if that aspect of the game is any good, so I won’t! It looked nice, if that’s any consolation.

Dragging the game back into more familiar territory is the waves mode requiring the player to clear one wave of baddies, then another, then another.

There’s a few walls placed within the arena to shuffle things up a bit and I’ve churned through around 20 of the 50 possible stages so far and it does get pretty frantic. I wouldn’t even consider ducking in to this mode until you’ve unlocked the maximum level of firepower, the friendly drone and have a few bombs under your belt unless you’re really good at this sort of thing though.

It's Funtime again, very yellow this time as the player paints a grid yellow, yellow explosions are going off and there's orange bullets which is nearly yellow if anyone asks.
A yellow thing goes boom. In yellow.

I’m not 100% sure but I think some of the later stages may be impossible to complete without either earning the colour switching or having some bombs in your inventory. It’s an odd thing to let you play unequipped but maybe I’m just rubbish and can’t see the way out! Can’t really rule that out with my attention span. I do have a really poor attention span. Did I mention I have a really poor attention span?

The final two modes, “Zones” and “Funtime” require colour switching so I can’t say I’ve been compelled to give them a shot for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. I can’t really do them justice so no point really.

All told, that’s a fairly nice selection of modes to toy around with. Survival and Waves are enough fun that I really don’t mind there being modes I rather literally cannot play.

No idea what mode this one is from as I grabbed the screens from Steam. It's a slightly more spartan grid with a giant 3d cube tumbling around the place.
If your mum asks, I haven’t got your rotating space laser cube.

Oh! There’s also an unlock system where the stuff carries across all modes that I’m not entirely convinced has much benefit in being an unlock system (rather than just handing the player all the abilities from the off). But! I am the person who starts the player off overpowered in virtually every game I make so maybe don’t listen to me. Regardless, it’s not exactly a grind to get everything maxxed out so perhaps it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things anyway.

A few rounds before you’re a colourful death machine never hurt anyone.

On the whole, I’m enjoying Funtime! I’m playing through the PS4 version, other versions are available.

Honestly, I think Ant Workshop, makers of Dead End Job, should be in touch with the Guinness Book Of Records because if they’re not the frontrunners, they’re definitely in with a shake for the Most Puns In A Videogame world record. In all my years (which are many), I don’t think I’ve ever seen the likes. It’s practically obscene.

Luckily, some truly rotten puns are a fairly good way to crack a smile out of me! The more of a leap, the better. Which pretty much means I spent way, way more time laughing at Dead End Job than is probably healthy.

Such a relief too because as much as I adore videogames, what passes off as humour in videogames is fairly often lost on me. For every game that manages to sneak a memorable joke under the radar, there’s a thousand where the joke is “I just said that thing off the internet” and oh, oh dear. Please, no.

So yeah, Dead End Job got more than its fair quota of laughs out of me. It’s also a really grand looking and sounding game. Styling itself around the idea of what if Ghostbusters arrived freshly formed as a nineties MTV-era cartoon, it doesn’t exactly pick itself an easy look to pull off. It does pull it off though, incredibly well.

Everything bops and squidges nicely, characters land somewhere between cute and grotesque in that oh so very nineties fashion, it even has title cards for the start of each mission! And it’s a small touch but one I loved, Dead End Job does that sort of “meanwhile, back at the house…” interstitial scene cartoons lifted from a myriad of sitcoms over the years complete with guitar break. Oh, and it has a theme song too because of course it does. If you’re going to do this stuff then might as well go all in and then some, eh?

It’s a pleasingly tough but not too tough twin stick shooter. You’re tasked with clearing an area out to earn money, each area is (as is oh so in vogue at the moment) made up of a shuffled around selection of rooms. Clear all the rooms, rescue a couple of folk on the way, get out and cash up then head onto the next bunch of rooms.

It’s a fairly routine set up made more interesting by having to work around incredibly cluttered rooms where things often have a tendency to explode, managing some (thankfully far, far from obnoxious) weapon cooldown timers and having to catch the ghosts with your ghost vacuum in fairly short order after hitting them with your definitely not a proton pack (honest guv) laser beam.

Everything is so big and chunky that there isn’t quite as much room to muck around in as you need so making space (by blowing things up) becomes a priority very quickly. Ghosts also have a tendency to leave slime trails behind them which should you try and wade through them, slow you down. There’s always plenty to be taking into account in order to make the space less cramped and more amenable to a bit of busting.

There’s a reasonably sized bestiary of ghouls and ghosts to catch, certainly far more than many games would bother with, and best of all the game allows you to rename each and every one of them. Not since Fable 2 have so many things found themselves mysteriously called Bernard by my hand. Look, I know it’s a problem I have, I’m trying to be better but gnnnnng BERNARD.

I really, really enjoyed myself with Dead End Job and it’s one I can see myself coming back to for a good few years. Helped, in no small amount, by it making me smile so much with its awful, awful puns.

Dead End Job is on Windows, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Apple Arcade. It’s (wait for it) dead good.

As videogames go, I think we can safely say Bezier is a videogame. I mean, just look at that, right?

In some ways it is, visually, to arena shooters what Minter’s tour-de-force GAME FROM THE SPACE FUTURE Space Giraffe is to the tube shooter. A slightly raw, incredibly digital affair where you’re always uncertain what it’s going to land on you next.

But of course, there’s only one Space Giraffe and Bezier, whilst not pulling its punches in the visual department, it’s certainly a far more controlled affair. Then again, what isn’t a far more controlled affair compared to Space Giraffe, right?

It’s also some sort of science fiction synth-prog-opera made videogame. I know, it *is* though.

In other words, Bezier is absolutely the sort of thing that I’m going to fall in love with terribly easily.

I’ve been banging my head against a table and trying to think precisely what it reminds me of and I’m kinda glad to be drawing a blank in many ways.

It’s a little bit Buggles, a little bit Jeff Wayne, the videogame equivalent of an eighties Jean Michel Jarre concert and frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that Philip Bak (the author of the game) wasn’t really Philip Bak at all but in fact The Phantom Of The Paradise come back to haunt us but this time with videogames.

It could happen. I asked a policeman and everything and he totally said it could.

A picture from Phantom Of The Paradise
pic source

Thankfully, unlike Phantom Of The Paradise, Bezier isn’t a deeply cynical thing. It is however marvellously committed to its conceits. Chris Donlan covered the “Why Bezier?” stuff in his Eurogamer write up and that’s worth a quick scan over as always.

It’s a game where infusing Bezier curves in as many aspects as the game as possible is the least absurd thing about it. It wears the skin of a brutal arena shooter yet at the very same time the game remains remarkably accommodating to anyone who’s fairly not used to a twin stick set up.

It’s a game that manages to feel comfy and conventional whilst not really being either. It’s quite a thing.

If I were to sit you down and describe the game mechanically, I doubt I’d be able to get much further than “well, you move around an arena and you shoot some things” which may well show an incredible lack of imagination on my part but it’s also a very very accurate description of what Bezier is.

Of course, not all arena shooters are created equally or push players in the same direction.

Whereas something like Geometry Wars is all about chasing the high score, Bezier sort of has that but nudges it to one side in favour of making just playing the game being a thing you’d want to do.

It’s certainly in no particular rush to kill you most of the time unlike most arena shooters that build on arcade templates. A game of Bezier can go on for quite a while because Bezier wants you to see the game. And more so, Bezier really wants you to hear the game.

Which I guess brings us back round to Bezier being the videogame as eighties Jean Michel Jarre concert. Seriously, listen to the soundtrack and you’ll see what I mean.

Bezier is a game that demands to be heard. It’s not Jarre (far too film soundtrack-y for one thing), it’s very much its own thing but! once the soundtrack is heard inside the game it’s clear just how much Bezier shares the same deep love of bombast, lasers and robot voices that defined Jarre concerts in the eighties. You can feel it in your bones.

If only it were all that simple though, the game is married to a wonderfully ridiculous science fiction plot and there’s a giant smiley face that taunts you at the end of each round and you’re a floaty thing with lasers and there’s all the colour and and and.

I don’t know, maybe that’s acid house turning up to sign the death warrant of eighties synth pop or something. Maybe. I haven’t checked with a policeman on this one, sorry.

Regardless, it’s all makes for a captivating, unique and nothing less than remarkable experience. I love it so very much.

Bezier is available from NiineGames right now for yer Windows PC.

[Article originally published in March 2015, tweaked a bit for 2020]