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Dark Matter

Score: 85%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Meridian4
Developer: Big Toe Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:

As the industry continues to look towards the next big thing in gaming, there will always be a place for classics. Pac-Man, Gauntlet, Centipede - all have managed to hold up really well and, if services like Xbox Live Arcade are any indication, still remain popular. While many of these games are seeing "classic" re-releases, some are being outright cloned and remade. Dark Matter is a competent remake of Asteroids that combines the classic feel of the original with updated visuals and mechanics.

Dark Matter takes a very basic approach to its visuals, but looks good regardless. Everything in the game has a very clean look that is easy to follow. Each of the game's backgrounds feature beautiful pictures of space filled with stars, planets and swirling nebulae. Both your ship and the asteroids are static when it comes to animation, but the details on each earn it some leeway. Of course, with all of the blasting come explosions and other special effects - something that Dark Matter manages to provide a lot of without overdoing it, which would make the game hard to play.

Sound is a weak point. There's no music, leaving you with the hum and drum of weapons fire and explosions.


Dark Matter takes the basic idea behind Asteroids and tries to give it a more modern spin. The first and more noticeable feature is the 30 mission Campaign Mode. While the story behind the missions is forgettable and maybe unnecessary, the campaign gives you a general sense of direction. The campaign map is laid out in a honey-comb pattern. Clicking on one of the spaces brings you to a level. The first few levels feature nothing but asteroids to shoot at, but as you progress through the game, you will eventually come up against other space ships and even a boss or two.

Gameplay sticks to the same blast and move premise of the original. Your ship can spin around in place or, with the push of a button, boost around the level. Your goal is to destroy groups of large asteroids that float around the map. The trick is that every time you destroy a large asteroid, it breaks into smaller ones. This continues until the small asteroids are nothing but space dust.

Although the inclusion of other ships and bosses does add something new, Dark Matter can't escape the one issue that seems to plague all classics - it gets boring. There is very little to distinguish levels from one another and the gameplay doesn't change up enough over time. Dark Matter is great in short bursts, but not something you'll want to play for hours on end.

Challenge Mode is also available. Here you start from the beginning and try to survive long enough to post a high score.


Dark Matter is not an extremely hard game, though it does take a little more patience than some gamers are probably used to. Really, it all comes down to how fast your mental and physical reflexes are. Early in the game this is easy since you only have a handful of large asteroids to worry about. However, as you start blasting, they start building up - eventually giving you're a couple dozen tiny asteroids to dodge and blast. Unlike the original, you can upgrade your weapons, which does make taking out these smaller targets easier. Unfortunately you lose these upgrades between levels. If things get particularly tight you can also unleash a bomb to give you some breathing space.

Game Mechanics:

Either the keyboard/mouse or a joystick (including the Xbox 360 pad) can be used to control your ship. Of the two, I personally found the 360 controller to be the more comfortable of the schemes, though it could be because it is what I am used to.

When using the keyboard/mouse setup, clicking left shoots while right clicking fires up your boosters. You can also left click twice to store up a power-shot, though the execution feels off, especially for a game that can cause you to become rather "click-happy" quickly.

Boosting presents another set of challenges when coupled with the game's physics engine. Letting go of boost doesn't cause you to stop; instead the momentum keeps you moving forward until you fire the booster in the opposite direction. This adds a level of excitement to the simple act or moving and is where most of the aforementioned "reflex test" comes into play.Dark Matter is a solid remake of an old favorite. While the repetition and somewhat aimless gameplay may turn off gamers who expect more out of a game, fans of Asteroids or simple games will like what Dark Matter has to offer.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP; Compatible Mouse and Keyboard; DirectX 8.1 with compatible graphics card

Test System:

Windows Vista; 1.6 GHz Dual-Core processor; 2 Gig RAM; DVD drive; 120 GB HDD; GeForce Go7600

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated