Addictive, Competitve Fun!
Posted 4 years ago By
With the existence of Microsoft’s XNA Creator’s Club come a slew of independent and first time game designers hoping to make a game the way they see fit. This paves the way for some low quality games, but there are some really fantastic and fun titles that can be found here for as little as 10 dollars. One of these titles is Biology Battle and if you’re a fan of Geometry Wars, this is one you will definitely have to check out. Created by Novaleaf Studios as a project to learn how to make games, Biology Battle is entertaining and addicting, like all shoot ’em ups should be.
Biology Battle adopts many of its visuals and gameplay mechanics from Geometry Wars, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The player manipulates one of up to four medical drones, nanobot if you will, within a target cell at a company called Taucorp Industries. The idea is simple, shoot your way through the cell’s progressively rapid influx of defenses; survival increases you’re score multiplier while death resets it. Players looking for an increased challenge can elevate their difficulty while those who are finding the road a little difficult, can decrease the difficulty. One of the especially nice features here is the ability to adjust difficulty for each players. Those familiar with Geometry Wars will find it easy to jump right in, while others might find the Tutorial level more engaging to get their feet wet. There are three modes of gameplay available from the menu, Local, Global Challenge and Versus.
Similar to Geometry Wars with it’s own innovative twist
Local play allows you to play the game as either single-player or co-op mode with a friend. The co-op doesn’t link up over Xbox Live, but rather as a local co-op with other people in the same room or household as you. You’ll start out playing Life mode, but once you unlock Death mode in Global Challenge, it too will become available to play straight from the menu (‘A’ for Life mode, ‘X’ for Death mode). Global Challenge allows you to play the game first in Life mode, then Death mode as you progress to rank globally on Novaleaf’s worldwide leaderboards. Those placing in the top 100 during Global Challenge game, will have their gamertag displayed for all to see (and maybe even worship should you rank number one). Since XNA games are not able to access Microsoft’s own leaderboard servers, Novaleaf makes up for this by using P2P technology. Versus play is just as it sounds, up to four local players can play up to eleven different types of games to compete. Some of these include ‘Wire Cycle’ where players destroy one another with the tail of their Medical Drone ship (like the old light cycles from the ’Tron’ game), ‘Frog Hop’ where players race from safe zone to safe zone, and ‘Turrets’ where players can deploy AI turrets to kill players in a competitive death match. One of the more competitive games in Versus Play is the ability to play as a Tournament, where up to four local players can compete in a game they setup. Here players can cater the game to their own wants and needs by adjusting the number of lives available and the time limit.
Local Co-op lets up to four friends join in the fun
Players aren’t left defenseless, far from it. Power-ups give you a wide range of both defensive and offensive abilities. The shields allow you to make daring moves through most of your foe’s destroying them. Satellites are temporary, but each one provides additional firepower that sprays out in various directions. You can’t control the satellite’s firepower and that’s fine, you don’t need to. Lightning is a very powerful offensive power that clears the screen of enemies quickly. It is extremely helpful should you become overwhelmed by deploying three beams that extend to the screen’s edge or cell wall (whichever is closest) and then rotate for maximum damage. Anything caught in its path is damaged or destroyed. In true form, the faster moving foe’s will try to avoid this attack, some successfully, some not. One of the more helpful defensive abilities, ‘Burst’, allows you to expel a pulse outward from your Medical Drone to push nearby objects away from you. All of these power-ups appear at regular intervals throughout the game.
Try to keep up by unleashing devastating attacks
Graphics & Sound
One thing you’ll notice immediately upon starting the game is the high quality of the graphics and sound. Fitting the context of the game, the menus have a mechanical and futuristic technical look to them without bring too complicated and they are crisp, sharp and easy to navigate. Each defense within the cell is color coded with an almost psychedelic glow and distinctly shaped. I really liked this because with a husband who is color blind and myself not having the best vision at times, we were both able to play the game with great ease. Kids, adults and seniors should have no difficulty aside from reflexes. The music within the menus doesn’t grow old and the pop rock-ish techno tunes give the game an Arcade feel. Effects also lend well to the Arcade environment and power-ups have a voice-over stating what was picked up so players don’t have to memorize their shapes and hope for the best. Novaleaf added a neat twist in that picking up power-ups and dying reveals a pop culture quote. These are quite funny and make the routine of the gameplay shift when you die and see ‘Mommy!’ or ‘OMG’ texted across your Medical Drone’s debris field.
Various pop-culture quotes turns death into fun
I only have a few complaints about the game. The text is extremely difficult to read at times. Top Score information and ‘How To Play’ details are so small I couldn’t read most of it. Each mode’s launch screen feels a bit cluttered giving us up to four players to join, top scores and a description window. The top scores can then use the bumper buttons, just like arcade games, to adjust the viewing parameters between our local top scores (10 max), top scores this session (10 max) and in some cases, the global leaderboards (100 max). I would have liked to see an additional menu option with larger text that consolidated the top score data. This could have been placed in its own menu with more screens for the bumper to page through. In the ‘How To Play’ section, I would have liked more screens as well. As it stands the miniscule white text is extremely difficult to read against a red background. The tutorial makes up for this but sigame types available in other modes, which the Tutorial doesn’t thoroughly explain. Speaking of small, when playing co-op and versus, you are playing with up to four players on the same screen. Biology Battle doesn’t split the screen as it would be rather awkward. Even in single-player mode, you can’t see the entire spatial area within the cell’s wall. The camera pans, effectively for one player I might add, to keep your view on what is important, the action around you at an appropriate distance giving you a large enough area without being hard. Unfortunately, this changes in local co-op. To compensate for the large arena you and your friends can play in, the camera remains at the appropriate distance if you don’t extend yourself. However when you and your friends are on opposite ends of the cell, the camera pans back shrinking Medical Drones, the cell’s defenses and the entire arena. Those enemies that were small to begin with are now so tiny that they are very easy to fly into without ever knowing why you suddenly ‘blew up’. You can easily outwit your friends that have poor vision by flying to the opposite ends of the cell. This can add a certain amount of increased difficulty but it can also increase frustration. Co-op and Versus play should have a smaller arena that is viewable to the entire screen but I know this would be difficult to do without changing single-player versions as well.
Text can be difficult to read, but not so much that it detracts from the game
Biology Battle will keep you coming back for just about everything. Power-ups add a great dynamic that is missing in that other popular Arcade game and if you have some friends, the local co-op mode and Versus play offer a fun competitive edge. The global leaderboard provides the game with a high replay value in that you’ll continue trying to beat your friend’s score and get into the top 100.
One of the more expensive XNA Community Games out there at 800 Microsoft Points (about 10 bucks), this might detract some players given that it’s a Community Game; however, the sharp, professional quality mixed with addictive gameplay and expansive game selection makes Biology Battle quite the bargain. Come to think of it, some of the 800 to 1200 point titles offered on Xbox Live Arcade offer less than this one does. In fact those having difficulty with Geometry Wars may want to turn here instead. Community Games don’t always get the recognition they deserve and granted some of them aren’t worth your time. Biology Battle certainly isn’t one of them and hopefully other gamers will check out this little gem. Novaleaf originally made the game to learn how and with a sharp and enjoyable first game like Biology Battle now in their resume, I look forward to what else this studio has to offer the gaming community.
+ Four player local co-op
+ Local, Global Challenge and Versus Gameplay
+ Tutorial Mode available
+ Power-ups giving offensive and defensive abilities
+ Pop Culture quotes at power-up pickup and death
+ Enemies are both color coded and distinct shape
+ Eleven Versus games and Tournament Mode
+ Globally Ranked Leaderboards
+ Difficulty adjustments
- Text can be a little difficult to read
- 800 Microsoft Points might be a little pricey to some for a Community Game
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Release Date : 2008/11/19
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Novaleaf Studios
Developer : Novaleaf Studios
Category : Shoot’Em’Up
ESRB : RP
7.0 / 10
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