- Developer: gFaUmNe
- Publisher: gFaUmNe
- Release date: 7/5/2021
- Price: £8.99/$9.99
- Review code provided by gFaUmNe
Introducing: Flowing Lights Review
Flowing Lights is an interesting little indie shooter. It instantly jumped out at me when the chance came up to review it. The hypnotic rolling hills of its arenas and the searingly bright bullets drew me in, but the actual game was a little different from the bullet hell shooter I expected. Instead of a ferocious, non-stop shooter, I was met with a cerebral puzzler with shooter mechanics. Something a bit different then! Let me say up front, Flowing Lights is a real hidden gem!
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton
In Flowing Lights you control a spaceship which has crash landed on an alien planet, the catch is that the gravitational pull is so strong that you can only fly back off the planet by reaching the North Pole, where the pull of gravity is apparently reduced. This simple backstory sets the scene for some fun scenarios across 200 levels, broken down into a number of different themed zones.
The gravitational pull forms more than just the basis for the story, affecting the gameplay in a number of significant ways. Your ship and projectiles are drastically affected, as are enemy ships and their fire, making for some interesting scenarios.
The aforementioned gravitational pull is the core of the gameplay mechanics here. Levels are undulating Tron-like arenas, populated by a number of aliens, which look a little like bacteria or viruses. As you move across the arenas you instantly feel the effect of gravity on your movement, with your ship struggling to travel uphill, whilst gliding effortlessly downhill. Your ship has an inbuilt booster which can help deliver a quick burst of momentum to get you up a steep hill or, in one particularly cool scenario, to act as a pump to get you up and down a half-pipe to dodge around enemy fire.
The movement mechanics are smooth and satisfying and help give the game a very different feel from the twitch based shmups that dominate the market.
Once you engage in combat you have access to a short range rapid-fire plasma cannon and a longer range comet cannon, which turns the game into something more akin to a snooker sim. To utilise the comet cannon you hold the fire button and draw your ship back (like a snooker cue), before lining the shot up and letting it go. Comet shots can rip through multiple enemies and can be used strategically to clear our groups as well as building combos. The pull of gravity affects both weapons so strongly that projectiles can curve when flying over inclines, in the same way a rolling ball would be affected.
As you play through Flowing Lights’ 200 levels, you begin to pay more attention to the ranking system, which feeds in nicely to the combo system. You can build combos by killing multiple enemies with one comet shot. By doing so you power up your weapons and increase their range for a limited time period. The ranking system is based on how quickly you complete a level, but some challenges also require you to build your combo to a certain level. The benefits gained from building combos persist into the next level if you are quick enough, encouraging quick and clever play to avoid you having to take on challenges with poorer weapons. In a sense it feels like a play on permadeath, as losing your combo (and upgrades) means you need to start building it again from scratch and makes subsequent levels much harder.
Enemies also have a selection of weapons, with your ship being able to pass through yellow projectiles whilst being bounced backwards by orange ones. Scenarios make clever use of this, and success hinges on keeping an awareness of what you can pass through (albeit at the expense of one heart – the game’s health system).
The game’s levels are designed in such a way that puzzle elements apply in the combat, in figuring out the correct approach and order to take out enemies, and also in the traversal as you figure out the best way to use your ships limited abilities and the unique physics to get to your goal.
As you can see, Flowing Lights has a really nice visual style. The flowing landscapes are simple in their visual design, but give a really striking visual effect, which evokes the feel of some older arcade shooters like Asteroid or Robotron 2084 with the hazy neon glow.
Everything sounds great too, with a spooky and otherworldly sounding synth heavy soundtrack. Weapons also have a nice poppy sound to them, although feel a little weedy when taking on some of the stronger enemies.
Flowing Lights runs real smoothly, no doubt helped by the simple but effective visual style. In handheld and docked the game manages to run at a solid 60FPS and also pops of the screen, looking vibrant and clean. Despite the simple visual stylings, the solid performance and unique art style allow the game to really shine technically.
Flowing Lights offers something a bit different in the shmup space. I went in expecting a balls-to-the-wall shooter and instead found a unique puzzler with some really cool design in both the visuals and mechanics. I loved the feel of the ship moving around the levels, with some of the momentum based puzzles standing out in particular. Using your boost to traverse a half pipe shaped arena or sliding around the game’s frozen levels and climbing hills using your momentum never gets old!
The game has 200 levels, with a lot of replayability as you work to improve your ranking and build combos to help keep your momentum. It also has online leaderboards allowing you to compare your times against the world.
- Unique approach to the shooter genre
- Flowing visual style
- Ranking system offers replayability
- Difficulty spikes at unusual points
- Weapons lack punch at times