Thursday, February 26, 2009

Midnight Snack: Cell Warfare

cell warfare In our ongoing efforts to keep you distracted, I hereby present Cell Warfare.  According to his profile, the programmer responsible for this addictive shooter, Xdragonx10, is 14.  Really?  Good for you, kid.  Go outside, it’s almost Spring - but good for you.  Why am I patting a teenager I’ve never met on the back?  Because Cell Warfare’s got the gameplay that made Geometry Wars so damn addictive. 

You control a small blue cell, given the task of destroying any other cell that crosses your path.  In the early stages, cells merely criss-cross the environment, paying no real mind to you at all.  Each level introduces a new cell, and pretty soon the new cells start to come after you.  One of my favorites is a greyish cell that, when killed, makes a little oil (or something) puddle on the grid.  It stays there for a few moments, waiting cause you damage should you haphazardly wander through it. 

I say cause you damage because, unlike Geometry Wars, you get a health bar.  I haven’t gotten far enough to see every enemy cell, but I don’t think any of them shoot back.  The only way to take damage is by head-on collision (or touching the above-mentioned “oil” puddles).  I like the health bar system because it allows me a slim margin of error, correctable should I live long enough to obtain a health powerup. 

The controls feel inspired by the Geometry Wars-era twin-stick shooters.  WASD and a mouse work fine, but don’t expect movement to behave exactly like a twin-stick.  The WASD controls favors either grandiose gestures (running for your life from the later level homing cells) or slow, detailed steering (navigating an oil spill to collect a 3x shot powerup).  There’s really no in between.  The game gets infinitely less frustrating once you’re comfortable with how it handles.

Simple, compelling gameplay aside, the 70-some achievements it sports are what can make for some lengthy play sessions.  Achievements range from levels cleared to total play time – it even gives you achievements for finding different ways to die.  But on average, a session can range from three to four minutes to however long you feel like kicking some cellular ass.