Intrusion 2 [Review]
Intrusion 2‘s trailer caught me off-guard, blowing me away with huge bosses and Contra-like action. I wanted to shoot the giant airplanes with arms too! It’s been too long since a game really held my head down and kicked it around for a while, so I was beyond excited when I got to dive into Intrusion 2. While harkening back to the days of shirtless men firing machine guns at aliens, it still managed to have a personality and challenge completely its own. There are a few quirks about it that make it a unique and challenging shooter that deserves to be on any action fan’s PC.
This game took one huge step away from Contra by giving you a life bar, but that’s the first aspect of the game that’s going to actively screw you over. I scoffed at the idea of a life bar at first. I’d beaten Super C without the Konami code, so what did I need a health bar for? Well, it’s probably because most of the enemies aren’t shy about firing the weapons they carry. The enemies in Intrusion 2 are not stupid, and will always home in on you and start firing away as soon as you’re within sight. You can still sneak up on enemies that aren’t aware of you, but once they see you, they’ll be firing as fast as their guns allow.
The developers made this prospect a little easier to deal with by only allowing the enemies to fire in bursts. Even if they’re carrying the same guns you can fire on full automatic, they’ll never do the same. This might have you feeling confident, but I wouldn’t. Unlike most retro-styled action games, there is no invincibility time in between shots for you to get out of the way of the next few. If you get hit three times, you’ll be damaged three times.
This means that when you screw up, things go sour in a hurry. That’s not even factoring in that many of the tougher enemies do more than one point of damage, and that lots of the bosses can do even more than that by tossing chunks of the environment around. So while you might have felt confident in that life bar before, you’ll soon find yourself blasted to pieces and bouncing around the environment; sighing as you reload a checkpoint for the tenth time.
To be honest, that bouncing can be a bit of a nuisance in the game. Intrusion 2 has an odd physics system in it, one that makes everything feel like it’s floating just over a sheet of ice. This means that things go flying in a spectacular fashion after an explosion, giving the game a lot of its cooler moments, but it also means lots of environmental pieces flipping all over the place and getting in the way. There were quite a few times where I’d backed myself into a little hiding spot to stay safe from a mini-boss, only to have it knock a bunch of boxes and crap into my spot and block me in. I could usually get out by jumping around, but every once in a while it meant I would be shuffling around for some time to get out.
It also made for some annoying puzzles on how to get through an area. In one of the later levels, I was supposed to have jumped inside of a sphere and ridden it as it rolled through the next area, but I’d knocked it off the side of a cliff without getting in it. I chased after it, but it had rolled all the way to the other end and blocked my exit. I spent the next half hour pushing on it, hoping it would start to roll backwards with the momentum I’d used on it. I tried piling things up next to it, but nothing had any weight to it, so it all just slipped around and fell off.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t just reset my checkpoint, there are a few reasons. The most pertinent one is the difficulty. Now, I hate to say it, but this game has nothing on Contra when it comes to challenge. As long as you’re remotely careful, you’ll get through a lot of the game without a whole lot of resistance. The enemies are smart, but if you learn the timing of their weapon bursts you can typically just rush in and pound them to death. Many of the mini-bosses are the same, having a handful of moves that are relatively easy to learn if you’re paying any kind of attention. Even those big, amazing bosses I saw in the trailer have frequent checkpoints to keep your frustration at a minimum; taking away their teeth at times.
It can pull the rug right out from under you when it wants to, though. I can’t even count the amount of times when I’d get caught up in some overwhelming firefight between several enemies and a boss, only to find myself pinging off the walls as an entire health bar was chewed up in seconds. This game excels at pairing enemies up with each other in ways that will let them tear through your health. The enemies can also take quite a few shots to put down, so don’t expect to thin out the resistance with any kind of speed. One on one, it doesn’t seem all that bad, but when you’re facing down four enemies and a mech, it can be a nightmare. For every moment you feel like you’re having an easy go of it, there will be two when the game pounds you into the dirt.
The second reason was that the game wasn’t very good at actually saving your checkpoints. If you shut the game off after reaching a checkpoint, you’ll be annoyed to find that it doesn’t save them when you turn it back on. I’d found this out the hard way only a few hours before this unfortunate time, so I knew I’d just have to keep pushing on the sphere, or I’d have to do the whole level all over again.
The checkpoint system isn’t as generous as your modern shooter, either. You’ll be crying for one of those gigantic green flags to wave at you, as they’re all spaced far apart. While they are a kind touch that is far from the cruelty of the games Intrusion 2 was based on, there are only a handful of them in each level and you’ll often find yourself dying because some idiot takes a pot shot at you when you’re about to touch it. It’s a delicate balance of cruelty and kindness, and it makes the game a lot more approachable if you’re new to this style of action games.
Well, they’re mostly spaced far apart. Around the middle of the game I’d died after a really long stretch, and was trying to bite my mouse in two when I noticed that I’d respawned a short distance from where I’d died. I hadn’t gone into a new level or anything, but the game had just given me a random checkpoint for some reason. It happened a few more times during the middle stages of the game, but then disappeared as quickly as it came for a brutal stretch in one of the last levels. It made me mad when it was gone, but only because I was getting lax. It was the last level, and it should have been as hard as it was. Too bad for me if I couldn’t beat it. Still, it was an odd experience, and it threw off that almost-cruel balance they had delicately created.
Then again, respawning gives you an excuse to keep listening to the game’s awesome soundtrack. It’s straight out of SNES and Genesis action games, giving you a pounding soundtrack to devastate your enemies to. There aren’t many tracks, but they’re all strong; giving you stuff that’ll keep you pumped up while dodging bullets. There’s also a lot of nice, ambient stuff that still sounds tough, but also gives this sense of loneliness and the crushing odds you’re facing. Many of the mountain tracks have this quiet desperation to them that still makes you feel like a powerhouse, but also reminds you of the danger you’re in. They’re a neat collection, and I never got sick of listening to them.
The bosses are all pretty cool. There are only three of them, which I felt was a real shame; but they make up for it by being long, involved fights. The airplane you fight in the first few stages has five or six modes that it goes through, all changing the way you fight it in different ways. It even ends with a chase to the edge of a cliff, where it then tries to pummel you with robotic fists. The woman with the gun was far better, though, as I felt more like I was fighting someone with powers equal to my own. That fight also went on forever, changing through various kinds of shots and patterns while the room filled and emptied with lava and boulders. It was gruelling, and I felt like an actual weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I was done. It reminded me of what being a boss used to mean in games, and I loved it.
It can only last so long, though. I rarely complain about how short a game is, but I managed to finish the campaign in four hours, deaths included. I screwed it up a lot, so a better player than me could finish it in two or three hours, which is pretty short for a $10 game, even one that’s made by a single person. I’ve played other games that had a similar length and didn’t feel that they were too short, but this one really does.
Maybe that’s because I was dying for more when the game was done. “That’s it?” I shouted when it was all over. This game, despite how its physics might get on your nerves, is an action classic. Intrusion 2 takes the feeling of a Contra game and makes it into something all its own, creating an experience that feels like an old action game but is still something new and unique. Grab it if you want to have a couple of buddies over for an afternoon and have them pass the controls on each death. It’ll be a blast.
Intrusion 2 is available for purchase from the developer’s site for $10.