Dimension Drive – Preview (Feb 2017)

Hitting Early Access today, 16th of February, Dimension Drive is a new story-centric Shoot-em-Up, with a comic-book sci-fi style, and a real-life comic-book villain sabotaging its Kickstarter!

 

Early Alpha access was kindly provided by 2Awesome Studios, and the game was played on Steam … on a Mac.
 

Intro

Loading up Dimension Drive, you are presented with Jackelyne Tywood, or just Jack, the protagonist and only survivor of the Ashajul’s attack on her home-dimension. Her new home, the planet of Vain, is under attack by the Ashajul, and of course she’s the only one who can repel them!
 

Mechanics

Shoot-em-Ups go back to early 1970s arcade machines, and Dimension Drive ticks all the regular boxes with formation-flying enemies and dodging geometric shooting patterns – you know, the stuff we all keep coming back to arcade gaming for. The specific mechanic that sets Dimension Drive apart from others is, well, the Dimension Drive; press a button and Jack teleports her Manticore spacecraft from 1 dimension to another.

The Screen is basically split down the middle, with 2 largely identical, but still different, maps, and you jump between the two to avoid obstacles, collect pick-ups and kill enemies. If there’s a laser on one of the maps blocking your path, simpy jump over to the other map, fly past it, and jump back again.
This also goes for dodging end-of-level bosses and their attacks, with 2 bosses generally mirroring each other in some fashion and where 1 is shooting, the other generally isn’t.

Your positions on the 2 screens are identical, and when jumping you basically have to check that it is safe on the other side – teleporting into a wall will instantly kill you. This is also the trickiest part, as puzzles and pickups require specific patterns, and being a little bit off can trivially end you.

To help force you to jump between maps, or dimensions, you have 2 energy bars that deplete as you shoot, and jumping restores them. Stay too long in 1 map, and you’ll simply run out of ammo!
The energy is also linked to your score multipliers, so management of it is crucial when hunting a high-score!

 

Story

The basics of the story are pretty run of the mill, but the presentation is very stylized in a comic-book fashion. Cutscenes between levels present the story of Jack and the Ashajul, and during game-play you can pick up socalled data-stores unlocking more of the tale.
The cutscene dialogue isn’t voiced, which I think could have been nice, but also fully understand that not only does that add cost and complexity, but risks getting VERY cheesy.
Alongside the game, 2Awesome Studios also plan a more traditional comic-book, and a concept-art booklet, all to expand on the world of Dimension Drive, and the infinite universes that our hero Jack can reach.

Talking of comic-books and villainy, the game went 2 rounds on Kickstarter, after the original campaign was trolled by a fraudulent pledge of 7.000 Euros. Thankfully, the team came back for another round after that, and managed to secure the complete funding and hitting the stretch-goal for local couch-CoOp!
 

Visuals and Sounds

The game is quite pretty, between the gameplay and maps, and the drawn cutscene images. It also flows quite smoothly, even on a slightly old laptop, and the only reason our recording of it is a bit subpar, is due to us using a bit of not-quite-recent hardware.
Sound effects are simple and effective, and there’s the occasional voice-bits from Jack and her side-kick V.E.R.A. to help establish the protagonist.

The music matches ca an early 90’ies Commodore 64 Electro style; Think Chris Hülsbeck’s Turrican soundtrack, if you’re as old as some of us Bammsters. Generally, it stays in the background and doesn’t invade your experience, but is a good fit to the visuals and mechanics.

Conclusions

Because the game is releasing in Early Access, and this is only a preview piece, I’m refraining from scoring it right away – there’s bound to be improvements in the near future as the developers get more feedback, and then we’ll revisit it.
There’s also the to-be-expected glitches and small irritations, as is in all Early Access games, especially as we’ve initially been previewing a pre-EA-release build. These range from small annoyances with controller-input, to enemies failing to shoot at all, to issues jumping between the 2 screens – 2Awesome Studio are aware of them, and working to correct them as we’re finishing up this piece.
At this point the game is definitely worth a play if you are into arcade games, shmups, or just old-school couch-CoOp, and it is absolutely getting a “Recommended” from us.