Enemy Mind / 6th of August 2014
Originally conceived by Mike Traficante of Schell Games during the company’s annual game jam, Enemy Mind is a side-scrolling shooter with an interesting twist. Unlike other games in the genre players don’t control a ship, or even a visible character of any sort. Instead you’ll assume the role of a bodiless psychic entity with the power to possess alien craft, and jump from ship to ship whenever the situation calls for it.
It’s an unusual mechanic, and one that manages to add a new spin on the genre. Every ship you pilot operates differently, with unique weapons and health specific to each class. Starting as a simple jet fighter capable of firing single shots and with very limited health, you’ll soon be required to jump ship once ammo runs dry. The end result is each ship’s usefulness is finite players are forced to vary their play-style, swapping between ships capable of firing heavy barrages, three pronged laser bursts and even unarmed ramming rockets similar to the Junkions ship in that good Transformers movie.
The mind control mechanic itself also operates in an unorthodox manner. By firing out like a secondary weapon it can ensnare enemy craft, however should the initial shot miss the boomerang-like action means you’ll be able to line up jumps that will activate on the shots return trajectory. Once you begin to master this technique you’ll find yourself shooting down enemy ships, dodging incoming fire and quickly jumping to a new host just as the killing blast hits your old ship. It’s all very satisfying and when these individual actions flow together neatly you can be left with that feeling of being an absolute badass.
That’s not to say however that the game is easy, once the enemies on screen start to pile up, and shots are flying left right and centre you’ll be all too aware of the fragility of each ship under your control. It adds a nice layer of strategy to the game, knowing when to grab a certain ship class and when to hang on to what you’ve got can often be the difference between success and failure.
Enemy Mind is not without its flaws however. The game consists of eight stages, not unreasonable for a side scrolling shooter, but each is broken into waves which can become tedious and drawn out during less enjoyable stages. For example one wave during the third stage is set amidst an asteroid field, without any enemies on screen for almost the entire wave the challenge boils down to timing jumps from one asteroid to the next. This in itself might not sound all that problematic but when you’re killed for floating off screen while inhabiting a particular asteroid it feels like little more than a cheap death. The mind control shot’s limited range often leaves you waiting around for opportunities to fire, and should you happen to miss, the time between shots can easily trip you up. It’s an odd decision from a design perspective to pull back from the chaotic gameplay to this reserved game of galactic pool.
If you would rather to keep things as hectic as possible, Enemy Mind offers local co-op play which certainly manages to ramp things up. With two players trying to stay alive and jump from ship to ship so often it can either be the source of a good laugh, or an exercise in frustration, not unlike switching on friendly fire during a game of team deathmatch. The lack of an online co-op mode may be lamented by some, but playing with a room full of friends is definitely the best way to experience Enemy Mind.
After making its way from a dream inspired tech demo at the developer’s annual game jam, through Steam Greenlight, and eventually to full release Enemy Mind is a solid and inventive side scrolling shooter. At £6.99 the game offers great value for money, and has plenty of replay-ability should you be eager to climb the game’s leaderboards. Finally it’s worth mentioning the simplistic yet pleasant eight-bit art style and dark sci-fi soundtrack which help to round off the package nicely.