Twin Shot 2: Good and Evil
Nitrome is a good developer of off-beat casual action games, but as we see time and time again, it's their sequels where things get interesting. Now comfortable with the original concept and armed with a ready-made catalog of character art, they tighten up the level design, scrape off the rough gameplay corners, and get creative with the power-ups and new enemies. That's pretty much the case with Twin Shot 2: Good and Evil, a sequel to the fast-paced bow-and-arrow blast-fest that so many of us loved back in February.
Here are 50 new levels starring the chubby cat-cherub duo and by extension, their overworked fletcher back home. Move and jump with the [arrow] keys and fire with the [space] bar (use [WASD] and [F] if you're the other player). Perforate adorable blobby creatures of all shapes and sizes with an unlimited supply of arrows, and then collect the loot they leave behind and fly to the next level. Rinse and repeat till you face one of the best Nitrome bosses in recent memory, and then it's time to go to Hades for Round Two, and another 50 levels.
The catch is that the second group of levels (the "Evil" levels), aren't free. This is Nitrome's first experiment with micro-transactions, using the new MochiGames system. This is something you're going to be seeing in a lot of games soon, so now is as good a time as any to make an account. Much like GamerSafe, MochiGames is a way to keep your high scores and progress for a game saved in a central location, so you can access them from any computer. It also lets developers offer premium features for a small fee of MochiCoins, which you can purchase using real money or by completing tasks in certain games.
The Evil Levels in Twin Shot 2 feature a whole new cast of enemies and several new gameplay ideas, such as blocks you can push around to reach higher places, or spikey monsters that won't die until you bully them onto a bed of hot coals. It's nothing more than 50 more Twin Shot levels, but if you're a fan of the game, you won't be disappointed. They'll run you 3000 MochiCoins, or about $3.75 US under Mochi's current pricing. For another 1000 MochiCoins, you can buy a suite of cheats and extras, including a fun secret character from another ancient mythology-based Nitrome game and a cool Random Level Mode that includes the original Twin Shot levels and even some extra levels that you won't see in the main game.
Analysis: It's getting redundant to say that a new Nitrome game looks good. With an evocative background picturing a titan holding up a giant city full of waterfalls, and some of the most charmingly weird little characters you can imagine, Twin Shot 2 paints a believable, twisted, innocent and strange picture of Greek mythology. Most of your curious gelatin-demon foes come in several forms, armed and unarmed, carrying or riding other species of demon, breathing and hopping with life and personality. Even the lowly spikey-slime flollops with fumbling purpose, and the ubiquitous shadow-people have at least one great new transformation. You won't like them when they're angry.
What's exciting about Twin Shot is the interactivity. Your enemies can leap on your arrows just like you, and catapult themselves off the same conveyor belts and vanishing platforms. As you alter the landscape by eroding blocks and making temporary stepping stones, you change the flow of the cat-and-mouse gameplay.
The Twin Shot games feature two kinds of levels: the more thoughtful puzzley ones, where you need to climb ladders made out of your own arrows and track down enemies hiding in difficult-to-reach corners; and the more action-oriented ones full of leaping bad guys and tricky platforms. For my part, I think Twin Shot 2 is at its best when it's barely hanging on to the edge of chaos. The controls are too slippery for the puzzle-quality precision you need on some levels. It's hard just getting an arrow to stick in a wall at the correct height, let alone jumping from that arrow to get off another perfect shot through a gap in a wall.
Even more than the first Twin Shot, the sequel is made for social play. Take the two-headed weiner dog that can only be defeated if you stun both the left and the right ends within seconds of each other, or the trio of tragedians that need to have all their masks knocked off at once. It's not unmanageable on single-player by any means, but this game really shines more brightly in co-op.
There are still some persistent design errors. The sides of the screen are wraparound, but the play area is larger than the screen, so you often can't see whether there's an enemy waiting just on the other side. It can also be frustrating to hunt down the last enemy on a large vertically-scrolling level, and just wait until your partner scrolls you off the screen in the middle of a jump. The worst part is the difficulty curve, which zig-zags cruelly at times with miscalculated tricks and traps, although the game as a whole is fairly easy by Nitrome standards.
But at the same time, if Twin Shot 2 didn't aim so high and try so many things, it wouldn't succeed half so well. The genius moments are the craziest ones. When you have to navigate two interlocking mazes of platforms and walls, each moving independently, or hop into a little cloud armed with lightning bolts and engage in some high-stakes sky-jousting with the shadow people, you may be convinced for a moment you're playing the greatest Flash platformer ever. The bonus levels flooded with falling coins and bombs, the heart-tipped arrow power-up that sets off a chain reaction of love explosions, the creature of all mouth who eats your arrows and spits them back — these are great things to have in a game. Whatever its faults, Twin Shot 2 doesn't lack for imagination.
Thanks to Nick, Adrian, and Sphax for suggesting this one!