Review: Omega Five
Omega Five is a strange game, first of all the name. I mean if you type ‘Omega Five’ in any search engine chances are you will probably end up with a web page dedicated to fish oil so finding out information about this Xbox Live Arcade title can be tricky.
Thankfully Omega Five carries on the tradition of such classics like R-Type, Gradius and other side scrolling shoot-em-up’s like you used to find in the arcade in the 80’s and 90’s before the genre died a horrid and slow death. Although while this game has a lot in common with the traditional shoot-em-up’s of the past it mainly takes it’s idea’s from one of the weirdest and most unique in the gender, Capcom’s cult classic Forgotten World a game that was a part of Capcom’s cult â€œJet Pack Heroâ€œ Trilogy of games with Section Z and Side Arms.
What made Forgotten World so different was the control system. No longer you just made to accept your chosen craft’s shot direction you could actually change it by using the paddle, a type of controller that allows you to rotate the direction of your shot in full 360 degrees. This meant that there is no such thing as a cheap hit anymore because no matter where the enemy would come from you would be able to shoot it proving you spotted it in time of course.
Now fast forward about ten years later and you have Omega Five, a fully 3D tribute to Capcom’s earlier work but with five different characters and some pretty weird game mechanics. Will this game make the grade or just dig the traditional shoot-em-up gender in to a bigger hole? Well you will be delighted to know that Omega Five is probably one of the best games I’ve ever played using Microsoft’s Arcade service and that’s no small feat let me tell you.
Now I know what you are probably thinking. â€œDanny you pleb! You like pretty much any XBLA game that’s thrown at you so why should I bother listening to you?â€. Well the simple answer is this, â€œBECAUSE THIS GAME IS FUCKING AMAZING!â€. It’s pretty much covers all the bases of what you would expect of decent shooter to. It has decent presentation, great level and enemy design, a great scoring system, and a simple to understand controls with a solid power up and bomb system.
The only thing I can possibly think off that I could say negative about this game (other than the fact that this game has no online play) is that if you are really in to your â€œSHMUPSâ€ and I mean so in to them that you find playing games like Ikagura therapeutic then you might find it a little easy to max out the achievements in this game which include completing all four levels of the game with all four initial characters without continuing.
While you could make the point of how the game could have been dumbed down for the western market that the Xbox 360 is squarely aimed for, shoot-em-up’s are about getting the best score and less about actually completing them so if you really want to most about of this game then you really need to be in to the whole â€œhi-scoringâ€ thing since the competition can be quite fierce on this game.
Right with the negatives out of the way let me just say that Omega Five’s gameplay is fairly simple. All you have to do is make it to one end of the level to the other, simple right? Well it would be if there were not so many god damn enemies flying at you all guns blazing (especially those damn gigantic mid bosses). The weapon pick-up system is simple, keep collecting the same weapon type power-up’s to increase your fire power with that weapon, to change weapon pick up a different weapon power up.
Well here’s a surprise. Yet another twin-stick shooter on XBLA, who’d have thunk it? Actually the bigger surprise is just how great this game is. Twin-stickery aside it’s actually a bit of a departure from the norm as it isn’t massively difficult and doesn’t force you to play at the very limits of your reactions and nerves like other shooters on Live.
It’s not the most original game ever playing as it does as a cross between R-Type Delta, R-Type Leo and Forgotten Worlds but the luscious graphics, varied characters and weapons and some really nicely structured levels really elevate this game above the competition.
We’ve had some real heavyweights on XBLA recently including the sublime Rez but Omega Five pretty much beats all of them into second place and whilst it can be frustrating, and is a little short, this is so well-designed and fun that it makes any criticisms seem a tad petty.
Secondary Score: 9/10
Now each of the five characters has there own selection of three weapons which are very different from each other. For example the two characters you get at the begging Ruby and Tempest and both have different styles of play completely. Ruby (a Ninja apparently) has a grappling hook that allows her to grab enemies doing damage over time while Tempest (a four armed alien) who is bigger than a normal character but can slow bullets down and even reflect them back towards the enemy. Also it’s worth mentioning that each of the weapons for some characters have there own unique special attack which can be performed by pressing the right trigger and are key to survival in this game.
Overall if you want to survive and get big points learning the levels is key really. Kill enemies quickly and in a chain, don’t get hit and make sure you have three bombs at the end of each round by collecting the pink chips form downed enemies are basically the best tactics for the best score in any level. While the game may seem a little hard and awkward at first after a few games you soon start to love the game for what it is, an enjoyable, old school shoot-em-up extravaganza with some interesting gimmicks up it’s sleeves.
Recently Microsoft has set itself a really high standard when it comes to XBLA games but saying that Omega Five is definately the best XBLA one released on the service so far. It’s fun to play, with a good enough learning curve for the â€œaverage Joeâ€, and does not take too long so you can fit it in between those COD4 and Flatout UC sessions. Also, it is modestly priced at 800 M$P so you really should add this game to your games library.