Thursday, March 12, 2009

Psychic Storm

Laser Soft / Telenet
Super CD-ROM

I wouldn't objectively rate this vertical shooter as being anything better than "decent," but I still play it fairly frequently, mainly for its quality soundtrack. There's plenty of variety in the music here: the ocean planet theme waltzes along in ominous fashion while the "Stage X" track is extremely upbeat and inspirational and has one hell of a hook. Beyond the tunes, the game is a mixed bag.

It's cool that most of the levels are split into two sections--one where you're high above a planet and another where you're near said planet's surface. Unfortunately, it's almost always the case that one of the two is terribly bland. The first-stage city is a good example: it looks like a nice, bright metropolis from afar, but by the time you descend, the invading monsters have wrecked it. This is cool in concept, but it ultimately means you'll be looking at boring blue rectangles for the second half of the level. Only the ravine stage delivers a complete package: initially, you see dragons flying about and bones littering the landscape below you; when you descend to fight the dragons, the bones serve as wonderfully enormous backdrop embellishments.

The game moves along at a slow pace and never really gives you all that much to dodge or shoot at. The experience is exhilarating only when the music really hits its stride. Your craft can metamorphose into a big bug (and strengthen itself in the process), a gameplay element that seems neat enough at first. But transforming is hardly ever necessary during stage play, so it ends up merely being a way for you to save some energy if need be against the bosses, who look very cool but are usually outmatched.

There are four different ships you may use, and you can switch to a new one in between stages, which allows the game to pretend that there's some strategy involved in the proceedings. Don't let it fool you. I usually stick with one pilot the whole way and have little trouble regardless of which one I choose. The Max Sterling wannabe starts off with a very lame "gun," however.

In the end, Psychic Storm makes for a decent $15-20 purchase. Expect good music and mixed-bag visuals accompanying gameplay that never comes close to the levels of action found in many mightier PCE verts.

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