A Queasy Game By Johnathon Mak
Everyday Shooter would be the game produced if Rez and Geometry Wars had tiny downloadable children together. It plays like a regular dual-stick shoot 'em up (aka "shmup"), similar to Geometry Wars, where one control is for movement and one is for aiming and firing your gun. The visuals are highly abstract and the game is based largely around the idea of an emergent soundtrack, different every time you play. The game is described on the Queasy Games website as "an album of musical abstract shmups."1
Featuring the addicting gameplay of Geometry Wars, which is a previous record-holder for "Most Downloaded Game On XBox Live", and the beautiful abstraction of games like Rez, this game is awfully hard to put down. It's available for a very attractive $10 USD download via the Playstation Store for PS3 and PSP, and Steam or Direct2Drive for Windows.
The game is arranged as if it were an album of 8 songs, played in order. All of the music is acoustic guitar, recorded by Johnathon Mak, the one-man force behind Queasy Games. Each level features a simple guitar melody; once the melody ends, the game progresses to the next level. Each time the player destroys an enemy or collects a point pickup, a small guitar riff plays, adding complexity to the music. If you're familiar with Rez, you already know what this sounds like, but the somewhat less unstructured nature of Everyday Shooter gives this a more organic feel.
The core concept to the actual gameplay is chaining explosions together to destroy large groups of enemies. There are no power ups or bombs; your avatar is a small box, only a few pixels across. Each level has a different mechanic that initiates a chain explosion, varying in complexity. In addition, several levels change modes, and each mode has a different chain mechanic than the others. At higher levels, figuring out how to chain explosions is an essential skill, since the sheer number of enemies on-screen requires you to do it in order to free up breathing room.
I haven't been able to put this down since I got it. I picked this up on a whim after hearing about the soundtrack, and it's now a mainstay on my PSP. Despite the seemingly placid graphics and music, it can get very tense. As mentioned earlier, learning the exact chain mechanics of each level is a major part of the learning curve. The game is tough without being necessarily unfair.
The PSP, and the PS3 to a different extent, has a nice trend of music-based games that take a familiar gameplay concept and twist it to make it your own. The game is often compared to Rez, but I personally think it has more in common with Lumines. Both games take a long-tested game mechanic and subvert it in the name of music, but where Rez is all about the huge, multisensory experience, Lumines and Everyday Shooter are distinctly more about the music of the game, and pointing out the rhythms of the gameplay itself.
The style of the game is well realized: the menus are all simple two-tone colors, and the graphics are bright and colorful. There are several unlockable tweaks that play with the visual design, such as inverting all of the colors or making the game monochromatic. The idea of the game as an album of music permeates everything, right down to an unlockable Shuffle mode that lets you replay the game levels in random order.
The unlockables definitely help contribute to the replay value of the game. I've found that this game is for my PSP what Tetris is for my DS, but if working for a goal is more your speed, there's also some extra levels to unlock in addition to the other fancy things mentioned above. In fact, the game encourages longevity, as your ending score in a given game is added to a pool of points that you use to purchase the unlocks.
The only major fault I could find with the game lies in the point scoring system. The point pickups are a bit shortlived, and there seems to be a bit of insensitivity when attempting to collect them. As they are the only way to gain points, and extra lives, this makes the game a bit more difficult than it maybe should be. In fact, the easiest way to collect large bunches is to pass through a clump and then stop moving altogether, to let the pickups "fall" into your ship. As this sometimes goes directly against longtime shmup habits, it's a bit annoying at times.
I love it, despite its flaws. It's nicely priced at $10 on Steam and Direct2Drive, though I wasn't able to figure out whether it's still available on the Playstation Store or not, as nothing on their website ever explicitly states what's available for purchase at a given time. I think it's well suited for just about anyone, in the same way that Tetris is, and it's a flashy way to show off what a PSP can do to your friends. If nothing else, give it a shot just to see to see how the music ties into the gameplay.