Presented entirely in shades of black, white and red, Vorpal doesn't have the traditional scrolling stages of most shooters. Instead players are subjected to a series of increasingly difficult boss battles. Each boss has nine different attack phases, each with a unique pattern of bullets. Nearly every attack phase does have one thing in common: Lots of bullets, like lots and lots and lots. It's the player's job to take down the boss's shield in each phase, at which point the shield regenerates and a new phase begins.
There are several characters to choose from, each with their own bullet type and special "Break" attack. During each level, players scramble for power-ups, dodge hundreds of bullets and chip away at the boss's health, all to a relentless techno beat. As the game progresses -- and every time you're hit by a bullet -- the "Stress" meter fills up. Once filled to a certain point, players can unleash their Break, a powerful attack that clears the screen of bullets and delivers massive damage to enemy health -- but also reduces your possible score.
As I said, initially I thought I might never clear the first level. Then I realized that, like all shooters, the key to defeating any boss is pattern recognition. Thus each encounter and each boss attack phase boils down to a frantic choreography of avoiding bullets and getting your shots in when you can, occasionally deploying a Break to create breathing room and quickly put an end to a more difficult attack phase.
Red Wolf's Abraham Morales says he hopes that Vorpal
"immerses the player in a trance." I don't know about a trance, but I can certainly attest to a few "zen" moments." And more than once I've found myself with only one health bar, dodging bullets like mad, unleashing a Break attack and just barely
killing a boss before being killed myself. It can be pretty exhilarating.
To put it plainly: Vorpal
ties together polished shoot-em-up mechanics, great music and a unique visual style and rolls it all into a stupidly affordable package. Shoot-em-up fans are advised to give it a try.
Want to try out Vorpal? You can queue the trial for download here on Xbox.com! The full version is 80 MS Points ($1). If you've discovered (or created) an outstanding Xbox Live Indie Game and think it deserves some more visibility, email Richard aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "Xbox Live Indie Gems."