By – Mike Bezek
When I was just a young, blossoming gamer, I used to hoard Game Players magazine. All of the memorization of tips and tricks contained within these glossy sacred tomes never validated my claim of uber-gamerness, as Contra always toppled me. I loved how difficult it was, I loved that no matter how hard I tried, it always managed to beat me like its bastard child.
The first level of Contra III: The Alien Wars is still etched into my mind as an impassable mountain that I will forever be unable to surmount. Years passed, the awkward teenage phase came and went, and the genre of twinge-inducing side-scrolling shooters slowly faded into obscurity. Soon after, gaming moved in the auspicious direction of holding the players hand rather than spitting in their bloodied faces and forcing them to man up and “own” their $60 purchase. Intrusion 2, however, lives in the manly veins of yesteryear filled with rage-inducing levels and bosses.
Although I consider myself to be hip with the cool kids, news of Intrusion 2 flew under my radar until it landed on my desk. “A guy with a scarf and some guns, OK. So it’s Strider with an uzi?” I scoffed as I pretended to load the game into my BD tray (because it was actually a Steam code and never landed on my desk). One of the first things I noticed was the game was loading in Flash, and based on personal experience, Flash never seems to bring me anything but headaches and heartbreak. Little did I know I was about to simultaneously eat my words and believe in the development platform once again.
There is a story to Intrusion, but like the latest shuffleboard championship scores, it does not concern me. In fact, the game itself goes to absolutely no lengths to inform the players of whom they are shooting. Are they aliens? Are they robots? Are they men with a home, a family and a dog named Kibble who hilariously drags his butt on the floor? All you are aware of is that you are shooting them, and the shooting is good. Intrusion 2 centers around the ability to direct your character while simultaneously aiming with a free-moving reticle. While a bit jarring at first, you quickly come to grips with the freedom of movement the game allows.
The reason for the freedom of movement lies within Intrusion’s unique physics engine. Its best feature, and funnily enough, greatest enemy is how the physics affects the environment. Anything not nailed down is free to move in some way, and explosions or large scale enemies will send the area into a maelstrom of colored boxes and dead bodies. During my very first playthrough, I was forced to restart the level due to a large scale enemy’s big, dumb head which was lodged in the small passageway I needed to enter to progress. While these occasions are few and far between, the cacophony of debris you have to navigate from time to time can break up the otherwise excellent flow. The brighter side of the engine is watching massive, multi-pedal enemies seamlessly traverse these ruined landscapes with ease.
Combat is an absolute blast and will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. If there is one thing Aleksey Abramenko studied intensely while making this game, it is how to create thrilling boss fights. The very first stage boss is a frantic slug-fest with a psychotic blonde wielding a rail run who does not let up for one second. Small mistakes are not forgiven and you will find yourself attempting the fight again, and again, and again. From there the encounters become simply magnanimous in scale and design. Be prepared for 15 minute-long battles that will push your skills to the brink.
The beautiful thing about the now archaic, You Suck, Try Again mechanic is how innocuous it is presented here. Never will you think to yourself, “Oh, that was a cheap shot” and exit the game due to frustration. It is instead replaced with the craving to become more adept at controlling your character. This is a rare feeling when it comes to games that can crush a short attention span. I frequently find myself putting certain games down due to the overwhelming challenge, but Intrusion’s addicting test of your sanity always stays fun and refreshing.
If not for the sheer brilliance of the boss fights that sets them apart, it would be difficult tell which enemies are built to be a true test of your abilities. I was constantly under the impression that the myriad of anthropomorphic mechano-beasts thrown in my way were supposed to represent end-level bosses, but I was wrong. While I struggled greatly in the beginning attempting to best these mechanical demi-gods, adapting to the environment and learning their limitations, conquering them always rendered a satisfying feeling. While some games leave you with the thought,“Man, I really wish I could pilot that”, envying the artificial advantage your opponent has while harassing you, Intrusion 2 actually gives you that satisfaction. You will come across a handful of mechs, and even a gigantic wolf that you will pilot/ride and take the fight to the enemy.
One of my main gripes is while the protagonist is easily to navigate, the mechs and wolf are incredibly clunky at times. There are certain points where the physics seem to arduously work against you, making exiting your noble steed the only solution. It is very frustrating to work so hard to gain the advantage only to be slowed down by the very thing that is supposed to make your life easier. One of the reasons for this dissonance with the gameplay is greatly impeded by the mechs. While the main character is a nimble little ninja with a submachine gun, his plod along like Mario’s mentally challenged step-brother. I frequently found myself attempting to jump small distances only to land exactly where I started because I simply could not bridge the gap.
The music, simply put is the epitome of ass-kicking metal that encapsulates the personality of the game so well. But another complaint I have to register is there simply is not enough of it to go around. In addition to the lack of a wider music selection, it is poorly implemented. This becomes very evident awkward when tracks have a few seconds of silence before they restart.. During my 5 hour stint with the game, I traversed a battlefield to the tune of 2 main tracks that lasted around 2 minutes. In the beginning it drives you forward and is very engaging, but after hearing it repeat for hours on end, it tends to grate the nerves. Boss battles naturally get their own tunes, which are always a step up in quality and ferocity. Maybe I am from an old and dying camp, but I find it imperative that bosses hold reservation on the highest quality tracks. My aging and crotchety views are satisfied to the fullest during these incredible fights.
Is It Worth Your Money?
Intrusion 2 is of a rare breed. It mimics the gameplay of arcade legends like Metal Slug, and yet does not cut the experience down to a total of one hour. The small collection of personal griped I have with this title are far outweighed by the positive, enjoyable experience. As of printing time, Intrusion 2 asks the paltry sum of $10.00, which is quite the bargain when you hold it next to the price points of similar titles. Simply put, Intrusion 2 asks such a small entry fee for a game that could charge so much more.