With its indie pedigree and minimalist visuals, it would be easy to overlook Inversus Deluxe. Watch a gameplay video and you’ll find that the title makes a standoffish first impression. It can be difficult to comprehend what’s going on as squares whizz around the relentlessly shifting battlefield. But pick up a Joy-Con, head through the game’s two succinct tutorials before venturing into Arcade Mode, and you’ll gradually comprehend what developer Ryan Juckett is chasing. Like the Bomberman series, this is one of those wonderfully hectic experiences that demands complete concentration from its participants.
Just like the Hudson Soft/Konami franchise, Inversus Deluxe skillfully scales from a single player game to multiplayer competition, retaining its core tenets across both types of matches. Ingeniously, when you’re waiting for an online competition to start, players can opt to warm up by tackling Arcade Mode. And when the contest is finished, you’ll seamlessly jump right back where you left off. This type of ingenuity is ubiquitous throughout Inversus.
Whether you are playing individual or with others, the rules remain consistent. You control a nimble square that can fire in the four cardinal directions. While shooting is used to dispatch enemies, your shots also invert the color of every square they pass over, making Inversus feel like a real-time Reversi. You’ll need to change the hue of these spaces, as you can only move in squares of an opposite color. That’s where need for attentiveness comes in- now only will you be battling enemies, but you’ll also have to control physical space. Admittingly, it’s can be a bit tough at first, but stick with it, and you’ll steadily find the balance that’s needed for survival.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of creative nuances to the formula. Your square can fire up to five shots in quick succession. But if you approach the game like a shmup, hammering on the fire buttons with wild abandon, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself in a precarious position. While your shot count gradually refills on its own, you’ll undoubtedly want to be selective with your offensive output, as death comes quickly to a defenseless quadrangular. Pleasingly, there’s never any uncertainty as to how many shots are available. In the middle of your avatar, you’ll see a spinning representation of your bullet quantity.
Prioritizing targets in another essential element for survival. While you’ll obviously want to eliminate any encroaching foes in Arcade Mode, killing can activate chain reactions. Occasionally, a single shot can be used to take down an entire procession of opponents. Once defeated, foes often drop red dots. When these collectables are picked up, they increase the speed of your shot, endowing Inversus Deluxe with a risk/reward mechanic that can lure you out of safety to amass a pick-up or two.
Unsurprisingly, that’s not the only temptation facing players. Hold down a fire button and you can power-up your shot, potentially launching a trio of bullets. While these can clear wide swatches of the playfield, there’s vulnerability in the time it takes to charge, and your shot quantity after. Inversus Deluxe even divulges the intended direction of the power-up shot, giving hawk-ended competitors a bit of an edge. Parries are another part of the equation, with dexterous players able to deflect an incoming bullet, while launching their own projectile.
Pleasingly, online play is concisely seamless, with both one-on-one and two-on-two matches free of lag. The only issue here is a small one, local pairs cannot play as a team against two online rivals. But other than that, Inversus Deluxe extends flexibility. Duos can venture through Arcade Mode, single players can confront bots, and every game gives experience that players can use to customize the color palette or unlock different emotes. Although the customization is a pleasing perk that might incentivize repeat play, it would be nice if Inversus Deluxe extended more variation that just different maps. Sure, these different stages have an impact on how you play, but perks or toggleable options would have contributed to the game’s longevity.
Visually, Inversus Deluxe offers a fastidiously clean output, which permits the game to run at a solid sixty frames-per-second. With its constrained color palette and homogenous character shape, there’s the sporadic moment at the beginning of the round where you’ll lose track of which avatar is yours. But, usually that dissipates in a second or two. Aurally, the game’s energic electric soundtrack and synthesized female voice recalls the signature sonic output of Housemarque.
While the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC versions are adept, Inversus Deluxe feels like it was built from the ground up for the Nintendo Switch. With its constrained graphical output, the game won’t swill battery power, while the system’s twin Joy-Cons permit breakout color switching sessions. When no one else is around, the game’s single player modes are compelling, making Inversus a requisite purchase for those seeking deeply immersive, high-speed fun.
Inversus Deluxe was played on the Nintendo Switch
with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: Nintendo Switch, also on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
Release date: September 28, 2017 (PC and Switch)
Price: $14.99 via digital download. Switch version currently on sale for $9.74