The Switch eShop has been filling up with ports of indie games released on other platforms, and Inversus Deluxe makes its way to Switch after having been previously seen on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Steam. The game features a minimalist design and is easy to understand just by watching it for a few minutes. You play as a black or white square and you move with the control stick on the left Joy-Con and use the four buttons on the right Joy-Con shoot in four directions (up, down, left, or right). You can only move over the area that is the opposite of your color, and you can only hold five bullets at a time. Holding one of the shoot buttons for a couple of seconds releases a three-bullet shot that only depletes one bullet from your arsenal, and picking up a red dot gives you a high-speed bullet that’s difficult for your enemies to dodge. When your shots collide with squares of the same color they flip to the opposite color, simultaneously allowing you to traverse them and impeding your opponents’ progress.
The minimalist, geometric design and twin-stick shooter mechanics make it impossible to avoid comparing the game to the fantastic Geometry Wars games, and, unfortunately, the game can’t help but suffer in comparison. It feels odd to be able to move around the board in an analog fashion but only be able to shoot in the four cardinal directions. This makes sense given that a major part of the game’s design is using your ammo to carve out paths for yourself and limit your opponents’ movements, but even after playing the game for hours the core mechanics still felt awkward and constrained to me. Also, given the fast pace it’s rare that you’ll find much use for the charge shot as by the time it’s fully charged your target has already moved out of range.
The game features two main modes: arcade mode and versus mode. The arcade mode pits you against an onslaught of spawning enemies, although there’s only one type of enemy, which seems like a missed opportunity. This mode feels very much like the Geometry Wars games and features multiple stages with medals awarded for high scores. Each stage has five possible medals to earn, but the huge gap in scores required for the third vs. the fourth medals is off-putting (and I shudder to think about the requirements for the fifth medal). Quite a few of the stages also feature a confusing wraparound display: instead of wrapping around at the edges of the screens, the wraparound occurs closer in. As a result you and your enemies appear multiple times on the screen, which makes the screen unnecessarily busy and harder to follow.
The versus mode features 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 matches either against the CPU, locally, or online. As with the arcade mode, the gap between the AI at level 3 and level 4 (out of 5) is significant. This mode features many more stages than the arcade mode, which is somewhat disappointing since of the two modes it’s the one that’s less fun. In the versus mode you have to conserve your ammo as ammo drops are very rare and your ammo regenerates at a very slow rate, and the deliberateness required is at odds with the more typically twitchy shooter trappings.
The game doesn’t have much in the way of unlockables. Aside from unlockable stages, the game’s main unlockables are a huge number of emoticons for you to use when playing in versus mode, which are pretty pointless. There are also a number of 3-color palettes to replace the default black/white/red colors. These are more worthwhile, although it’s disappointing that there aren’t more arcade stages or more modes.
The game has a combo system where not missing a shot will increase your score multiplier, and it has an online leaderboard for bragging rights. The visuals are eye-catching (although the constant screen shaking whenever you destroy an enemy gets to be extremely tiresome) and a solid, albeit typical, techno soundtrack. This game works well for Switch as its arcade and versus modes can be played in co-op, and the versus mode can be played with four people with four Joy-Cons. That all this (aside from the music) is the work of Ryan Juckett, a single developer, is impressive, and despite all the negatives Inversus Deluxe should still be appealing to fans of shooters and people who like chasing high scores.
Disclosure statement: Review code for this game was provided by developer Hypersect. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.