Your adversaries are cunning and relentless. They surround you, acting with the coordination of a directive hive-mind. They will shred you with teeth, dissolve you with acid, impale you with spikes, freeze you, burn you, crush you, devour you. They evolve and grow, mutating into terrible aberrations with overwhelming powers. They are filled with goo. They enjoy jazz. If you fail to annihilate them, surely they will multiply and smother the Earth. They are... AMORPHOUS.
Amorphous+, by first-time Flash developer Caleb Rhodes, is an overhead arena combat game that casts you in the role of a little bald human character with a ridiculously over-sized sword: the Splat-Master 9000. This weapon is tailor-made for fighting Glooples, which are basically man-sized soft-skinned green blobs of goop. Control your character with the mouse, and swing your sword by clicking. You can defeat most Glooples by cleaving them in twain with a single swipe, but things get much more difficult later on.
There are two main play modes. In "Single Nest", you must destroy a certain quota of Glooples. The smallest nest is composed of 200 enemies, which is already a pretty significant challenge, while the huge 500-Gloople nest will surely make even the hardest blade-master weep. Although the smallish green blobs at the start of a game are harmless by themselves, you will attract nastier, deadlier enemies the longer you stay alive. The second mode is "Bounty Run", where you simply try to rack up as high a score as possible with no ending in sight. You can adjust the difficulty ramp in Bounty Run, which is a nice feature if you want to skip quickly past the harmless greenies to the rare and scary monsters.
Your incentive plan covers more than the mere promise of mass blob murder. You can also earn a boat-load of achievement medals, which are awarded for performing almost every possible action in the game. You get one for making your first kill, for making your 1000th kill, for whacking three Glooples with a single strike, for staying alive for one minute, for staying alive for five minutes, it goes on and on. Nearly every time you play, you'll earn at least one medal, and they all come with a snarky and apt description that usually belittles your accomplishment.
Amassing 10 medals rewards you with a golden key that can unlock a bonus on the Rewards page. These are a collection of weapons, armor, and gadgets that you can take into battle with you. Most of them have a short but powerful effect that takes a long time to recharge but can really save your bacon when you get surrounded.
Analysis: Amorphous+ doesn't look like much at first gander, but there is an impressive amount of thought and detail driving this little action excursion. It begins, as it always does, with interactivity. The Glooples do not merely move through each other like the classic Asteroids, but rather bounce, burst, ricochet, or meld together with each collision. Tough-skinned giant Glooples will squash smaller ones in their path. The orange Melties are filled with acid, which of course has the potential to kill you; but if you splatter them across the play field, you can use their acid blood as a protective moat against other enemies. When some Glooples start showing up filled with oil and others come enveloped in flames, things can get extraordinarily hectic.
This means that the gameplay is nowhere near as simple as it first appears. Although you can easily dispatch the early waves of Glooples with single slashes of the Splatmaster 9000, the be-toothed, be-spined masses will eventually force you to start using your enemies against each other and executing complicated, split-second maneuvers. There is a delay built into the swing of your sword (the Splatmaster series is notoriously heavy), so you can't just mindlessly hack your way through the mob. It's really a game of positioning and crowd control, which makes it much more compelling than similar arena combat games. Unfortunately, the collision detection between sword and Gloople can be unreliable, especially when there are many enemies within reach. It's a very rare problem, but it can be enough to kill you unfairly.
Amorphous+ is an update to Caleb Rhodes' first Flash game, Amorphous (no plus sign), which was already a good little action game, but lacked a compelling hook to make it addictive. Rhodes has now remedied that in the extensive Award/Reward system. Truly, 110 medals can keep you blob hunting for hours. And the reward gadgets are totally worth the effort, animated with so much care and detail they might very well distract you long enough for a Biter to sneak up and gnaw your chest off. Witness how the Saw Drone unfolds its blades and takes to the air, how the Box Gun unfolds its legs and drives plumes of dust from the ground with a heavy thud.
But what really hooked me in the beginning was the Bestiary: a compendium of over-the-top verbose scientific descriptions of each species of Gloople. These vignettes are so intelligent and thorough, it becomes easy to imagine that these homicidal little blobs really exist somewhere, threatening a large-scale oozy apocalypse if their numbers aren't kept in check by the occasional brave swordsperson.
Amorphous+ still has some room to grow in some areas. The background artwork looks cheap, and in general the presentation is fairly basic. The enemies don't look like much (they are mostly just blobs, after all), but like the Rewards, they are animated lovingly, and they convey a surprising amount of individual personality. I enjoy how a Biter's rotating batch of random spikes coalesce into a shrieking mouth as it lunges at you, for instance. The graphics aren't so much impressive as they are entertaining. And the music doesn't have much to do with the action, either in pacing or style. The tunes are a sort of ambient jazz/hip-hop fusion by a band called Void Revolution, and they serve as the game's soundtrack simply because Rhodes likes Void Revolution. One of the Glooples is even named after them.
So let's do a summary: Amorphous+ is an unassuming but solid maiden effort from a talented game designer. It's not for everyone, but action game aficionados will appreciate the depth of the combat, completionists will respond to the ample reward system, and casual gamers will like the simplicity of the controls. If you are all three, then this game will own your soul. I think there's even an achievement medal that says that.