12th May2015

‘Project Root’ Review (PS4)

by Phil Wheat

project-root-screen

Project Root is a shoot ‘em up style game from independent game developer OPQAM and indie games partner Reverb Triple XP, which tasks players with taking out numerous targets, both on the ground and in the air, while simultaneously dodging an insane amount of on-screen enemy projectiles. Think Japanese bullet-hell shooter meets Desert (or Jungle) Strike  – and by extension twin-stick shooters – and you’ll be somewhere VERY close… And like a bullet-hell shooters the difficulty level in the game can often be insanely hard, even from the very first level!

With eight different and wide-open levels to fight through and light RPG upgrade elements to utilize along the way, Project Root‘s “simplistic” story – honestly, who needs a complex story with a shoot ‘em-up? Just point me in the direction of the enemy and let me cut loose – sees players take on the role of rebel ace Lance Rockport who pilots the advanced F-72 Zonda hover fighter against the ruthless Prometheus Corporation hell-bent on world domination. As I said, it’s a simplistic story that, thankfully, doesn’t get in the way of actually playing the game – even if you do have to sit through a couple of annoying cut scenes early on…

This is the second indie game I’ve reviewed recently that has foregone amazing current-gen graphics for something a little more basic (the other being Tower of Guns), however don’t get me wrong, if the gameplay is there who needs top-notch graphics. But I can foresee some players possibly questioning, that when nothing much has changed graphically since the days of early 2000s videogaming, where the value is in buying such a title.

The value, at least in the case of Project Root, is in the gameplay. The oh-so addictive gameplay.

Over the years I had forgotten just how fun and how addictive Desert Strike-style games actually are (yes, I missed out on playing Under Defeat HD on last-gen consoles – something I aim to correct). Switching from air to ground battles, trying to avoid ground-based gunfire whilst shooting down other enemies in the air, then trying to do the same with choppers and planes when taking on gun emplacements on the ground – it’s all very manic and all very satisfying.

Like many old-school video games, there’s a method to be found in the madness of Project Root, and success in this game is found in learning how to play the it correctly. Much like the platform games of the NES days (I’m thinking Mega Man and its ilk) where you had to learn the enemies patterns and master perfectly-timed techniques to beat them, the best way to play OPQAM’s shooter is to take on the enemies conservatively, wait them out and let them come to you rather than, as with bullet-hell shmups, wading in guns blazing. Which ties perfectly into the RPG-like elements of the game – you have to think before you shoot.

If I had an issue with Project Root it’s the fact your ship is, for a twin-stick style shmup, far too close to the bottom of the screen at all times. Which means those sneaky-bastard enemies can often creep up behind you and blast the hell out of your ship before you can even spin around and take it out! For me it’s a minor quibble that, if I’m honest, only added to the overall difficulty level of the game – and by extension made it that much better.

Project Root is old-school gaming done right; and is a must-buy for shmup fans, Desert Strike fans and anyone who just enjoys a damn fun pick up and play shooter. The game is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC (via Steam).

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