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Dark Matter

Score: 95%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Big Toe Software
Developer: Big Toe Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Classic/Retro/ Arcade/ Shooter


Graphics & Sound:

The two-man crew at Big Toe Software has done an excellent job in creating the PC space shooter Dark Matter through all categories within. For starters, the graphics are simple yet effective, from the different sized asteroids to the spaceships and their weaponry. The backgrounds canít get overlooked either. The planets and celestial artifacts look great, but best of all, donít interfere visually with the gameplay.

From an audio standpoint, Dark Matter also does a great job of featuring simple yet effective sound effects that accompany the many shots, missiles, and explosions present on-screen. Unfortunately, Dark Matter doesnít have any menu or background music, which, done subtlety, could have given the game that much more appeal.


Gameplay:

In the course of video game evolution, many attempts have been made to improve upon the original shooter, Asteroids. Dark Matter accomplishes that goal in fine fashion. With updated graphics and improved gameplay, Dark Matter raises the stakes by adding more than just galactic rocks to the mix.

Dark Matter actually contains two modes of play: Campaign and Challenge. The difference is slight, but welcome. The Challenge mode basically drops you into the middle of an asteroid belt with three ships, three bombs, and a pea-shooter of a gun. The goal is to tally up the highest score that you can, earning free ships, bombs, and weapon upgrades along the way. The action gets frantic as time passes by, and the rocks arenít the only thing standing in your way. Also slowly approaching your ship are various satellites and alien ships with different patterns and weapons waiting to destroy you.

On the Campaign side of things, most of the gameplay is the same, but instead of an ongoing effort to rid space of ships and debris, youíll actually take on the universe in waves. This is essentially a form of progressing through different levels, and the action does get crazy after a while. But once you clear the stage, more will open up, giving you different path options to progress toward the end.

The systems installed in Dark Matter for weapon upgrades are perfect. Each level of weaponry has sub-categories of the same weapon, increasing your firepower as you continue to destroy more objects. The mix of objects versus defense weapons is perfect, because I never felt overwhelmed with debris flying toward me, yet the difficulty of keeping it away was still ever-present.


Difficulty:

Dark Matter has the perfect blend of difficulty and weaponry, allowing players of all skill levels to pick up and play this excellent shooter. As you start each game, youíll have just a few asteroids floating through the galaxy, and youíll also be equipped with a very small gun to break them apart. But as you create more destruction, youíll earn weapon upgrades to dispatch the increasing number of on-screen threats. When the bombs and thrust are used appropriately, Dark Matter makes for an addictive (instead of frustrating) experience.

Game Mechanics:

A simple design revisited, Dark Matter builds upon the Asteroids formula of old in a perfect way. The controls are simple -- Left mouse shoots, Middle mouse drops screen clearing bombs, and Right mouse thrusts your ship -- which means that anyone can easily jump into a quick five-minute session, or play for an hour without having to learn a vast number of controls. The game also claims support for the Xbox 360 controller, although that wasnít tested at this time.

Dark Matterís simple, addictively entertaining gameplay certainly deserves your attention. Its cheap price tag and small download size should also increase the appeal factor for many. The Campaign mode offers a great challenge, but not much replay value. Fortunately, the Challenge mode can be played time and time again, as youíre simply competing against your (or your buddyís) best score. To relive your nostalgia of Asteroids, or to introduce this style of arcade shooter to your children, I would highly recommend downloading Dark Matter right now.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP; Keyboard/Mouse or Compatible Device; DirectX 9.0c with Compatible Graphics Card; Xbox 360 Controller Support
 

Test System:



AMD Athlon 2700+ CPU; Windows XP Pro SP2; 1GB (2x 512MB) PC3200 DDR400 RAM; ATI All-In-Wonder 9700 Pro 8x AGP Video Card; NVIDIA nForce MCP Audio; DirectX 9.0c; 16x DVD-ROM used as main 32x CD-ROM; Sony DRU-500A DVDĪR/RW; 6 USB ports; Cable Modem Hi-Speed Internet Connection

Windows Crusaders of Space 2 Sony PlayStation 2 Jaws Unleashed

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated