Another eShop release, another shooter. It seems to be a genre almost synonymous with the Nintendo Switch these days. Not that I’m complaining, I’ve become quite the fan thanks to the myriad of choices available.
Dimension Drive is trying something a little different though. This vertical shooter is about multitasking. What makes Dimension Drive unique is the dual battlefield which you need to quickly teleport between in order progress. Yes, you have to fight on two fronts and it adds a whole new layer of thought to the standard shooter gameplay. It also completely melts your brain into a bubbling gooey mess.
Starting on one side of the screen you can flick between the two. While you’re generally in the same environment and area, enemy patterns and danger zones are in different places. Where in one screen there may be a nice safe haven, the same place in the adjacent screen may be filled with lasers or hordes of enemies.
You control Jack, a strong female pilot, the last of her race. Her home destroyed by a genocidal alien race wanting only to wipe every last planet from existence, made oh so more enjoyable by the fact of a dimension drive, allowing them to continue their war machine almost perpetually. It’s up to Jack, her robotic assistant Vera (now, if you’re from England Jack and Vera double act will mean something completely different, but I’ll let it slide) and her super powerful ship, The Manticore, also capable of dimension switching, to save the universe. Or should I say multiverse?
While the story is somewhat interesting, I did find myself losing interest after the first few levels. It was nice that they tried and they’ve made some really gorgeous comic book-style screens, but I just wanted to get into the game. There’s a lot of talking, no voice acting (at least after the intro) and the mostly static nature of the screens didn’t hold my interest very much. I would have preferred something a little more animated. I think they could have followed Tachyon Project’s style where the screens where a little more dynamic.
As a nice touch, you can actually completely turn the story off if you just want to go straight into the action, something I very much appreciated. That’s what I like in my shooters, no fluff, just get me blowing up bad guys.
The gameplay is conceptually brilliant. Fighting enemies on one side then switching to destroy those popping up on the other, using it as an escape route when things get a bit too hectic for you, helping you choose your battles. The concept is great. The problem is that imbeciles like me will have their brains explode as you try to keep track of two screens at the same time.
The developers could have gone for something run of the mill where both screen were complete opposites of each other, but instead they share very little in that regard. Yes, sometimes things are mirrored, but more often than not there can be something equally as dangerous in the same place. You need to constantly keep track of what’s going on in both screens and, assuming everything will be fine if you swap over, could end in disaster.
At times it can become more like a puzzle game. It’s not always the case, but in instances one panel can affect the other, this is easily explained with the switches that open doors. Hit a switch on one side, it opens a door on the other. It doesn’t make sense as far as science goes, but it definitely make sense for gameplay, ramping up the intense action.
You only have one standard attack, no special bombs or anything. This attack also has a charge which depletes if you hold it down and can only be recharged by picking up green orbs after defeating enemies or by switch dimensions. This means: shoot wisely, especially if you have a power up. Don’t waste it. It’s an interesting mechanic for sure, and it definitely stops you from staying in one dimension for too long. If you completely run out of energy, the only way you’ll get it back is if you switch. Intermittently you may pick up a power up that can increase your attack power, usually giving you a wider shot. This is a must have, in my opinion.
Scattered throughout the stages are some data cubes. Usually you’ll see them in some rather precarious position where you have to cheekily warp in and out to pick up before being crushed by something. These are very useful as collecting enough of them over the course of the campaign and you will unlock different standard shots. You will definitely want to collect them all to try out!
The end of each stage presents a boss battle. Now, the phrase boss battle is often used incorrectly in here. Sure, there are some big beefy bad guys at the end of the stage you need to take out but there are times when it’s more of a quick escape rather than a fight. Giving credit where it’s due, it’s great that they varied it up even if some of them aren’t quite so great endings. Some of them fell flat, but many were exhilarating experiences.
There are only 13 stages but, my word will it take you a while to get through them. If you haven’t quite grasped it yet, Dimension Drive will test your brain reflexes, multitasking skills and awareness to whole new levels of frustration. Keeping track of two different fields of play, both of which are filled with hazards and dangers, fighting the same boss on different attack cycles between the dimensions. It’s just absolutely mind busting, almost to its detriment. I know for a fact some of you will hate the game for this. Others will love it.
There are four difficulty modes: Normal, Hard, Extreme and Insane. In all honesty, the default normal setting was enough for me, having to wrap my little mind around the dual field was challenging enough. I didn’t even bother trying the harder difficulties as there was no need. I feel most of you will be in the same boat but it’s nice the developers have given something to those who crave a true challenge.
Normal difficulty gives you 4 shields as well as 3 lives, hard is pretty much the same although there is no jump collision warning. Extreme mode has no shields whatsoever while Insane follows its name very much in the fact that you only have 1 life and no continues at all. Yeah, good luck with that one!
As you may expect from the set up, it’s a game that’s ripe for 2-player co-op. In this mode, two players share everything from lives, bullets and screens. It’s also absolutely hilarious as you both struggle to get your brain to function fast enough. I played for a solid two hours with a friend of mine and it was glorious. Although we did end up getting stuck at the exact same point that I did while playing single player. It doesn’t seem to make it any easier. If one of you dies, you both die. If you find the single player frustrating, maybe you will find solace within the co-op as you can both laugh at how crap you are. It’s great.
The art work has gone for a comic book style, indeed the PR has gone for the “Video game meets comic book” angle, but, even though it does look to be fairly nice, I’m just not completely seeing. The character designs are nice and some of the static screens for cutscenes look lovely. The environments themselves are okay, but nothing to exciting or colourful.
Overall, Dimension Drive is a really fun and unique concept that’s wholeheartedly welcome to the shump genre. It has mind bending gameplay that’s incredibly tense and challenging. It shines as a single player game and in my opinion, exceptional as a multiplayer game, something incredibly difficult to do. And yeah, talking about difficulty, there is the caveat that you could find this too difficult and it will probably frustrate those who can’t get their head around the dimension swapping gameplay. There’s no shame in that to be fair. Just bare that in mind before you click that purchase button even though I do recommend Dimension Drive. Prepare to have your mind reduced to a bubbling mess.
Game provided by 2Awesome Studio