We’ve reviewed plenty of shoot-em-ups for both iOS and Android over the years, but Futuridium EP is one of the only ones which seems to deliberately sabotage its accessibility, something it does by ruthlessly sticking to genre tropes popular 20 years ago. Here’s what it’s all about. In true shooter fashion, you pilot a spaceship and are tasked with battling huge dreadnoughts, something you do by blowing up blue cubes in order to expose, then destroy, its energy core.
Your ship has a very limited energy reserve, but it’s replenished by shooting the cubes. Do this in quick succession and you make a chain reaction which rewards you with more energy. Unlike R-Type or Sine Mora, which we reviewed recently, this isn’t a side-on scroller. Instead it’s viewed from behind, looking out on a stunning, multi-coloured 3D world, all created using the Unity 3D gaming engine. It’s absolutely stunning. Not in a Sine Mora realistic way, but a sci-fi, wireframe way. It’s incredibly bright, reminding me of Speed Racer‘s neon-lit world, and the scrolling is super smooth too.
The trippy visuals are matched by the superb audio. The developers have put together an amazing 45-minute electronica soundtrack, and it suits the game perfectly. Very few soundtracks make me want to wear headphones while playing, but Futuridium, like Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery, certainly benefits from doing so. You can even skip through the tracks, jukebox style, with a simple swipe while playing the game.
However, if you’re worrying about the changing the track, you must be some kind of gaming master, as playing Futuridium requires lightning quick reactions and a very good memory, which left me with little brainpower left over to worry about the music. Why? Because it’s really, really, really difficult.
I’ve often used R-Type as the benchmark of hard shooting games, and Futuridium is equally as unforgiving. The energy reserve of your ship is pathetic, and you’ll need to chain together the blue cubes at every opportunity to make it last further than level 4, as the amount of energy they return normally is miniscule. The game automatically scrolls at a particular speed, with the dreadnought passing under you. When you want to turn around, you tap the screen and the ship loops over to go back the way it came. Fine, but with no speed control, you can spend a lot of time (which you don’t have, as your energy is constantly running out) just lining yourself up for a shot. That’s where your memory comes into play, as you need to plot a course over each dreadnought and not miss a single cube on the first pass.
It gets worse. Later dreadnoughts have both upper and lower levels, gun emplacements shooting at you, and cunning placement of cubes in very tight spots. Hit a wall and you explode, losing any multipliers and valuable energy. Run out of it and it’s game over, at which point you may have a single continue to use, or it’s right back to the beginning of the game for you.
So, it’s a hard game, which isn’t helped by the problematic viewpoint. It’s quite hard to judge your height and how close you are to objects, resulting in a few too many lost lives, and weirdly, your stream of bullets appears to angle slightly up, forcing you to glide closer to the ground. Put the two together, and it’s game over. A lot.
It’s all a great shame, as Futuridium is addictive, challenging and a lot of fun to play, but the difficulty is set way too high. When you have to work so hard to reach a new level, it’s just too disheartening to go back to the beginning again when you die. It’s one of the few occasions where giving into modern ways and adding a mode with a continue, or an infinite energy setting, would help more people enjoy what is a great game. Add either or both of these in a future update, fix the weapon problem, and Futuridium will be a must-have shooter for everyone. At the moment, it’s only for dedicated fans of the genre.