Incomparable game-making legend Jeff Minter popped into the office the other day to show us his latest game, Gridrunner Revolution. We like Jeff Minter. He's been making games since the early 80s. That's a long time. His games have always been different. This is a good thing given that so many games try their hardest to be exactly the same as other games. Which isn't very imaginative when you stop and think about it.
Thankfully, Jeff Minter is still doing things differently and Gridrunner Revolution is full of the stuff that Jeff Minter does best. That is, expertly tuned shooting gameplay rolled up in a visual-audio funfair that is equal parts mesmerizing and madness. This is what Gridrunner Revolution looks like:
Above: Unmistakeably a Jeff Minter game
The basic idea of Gridrunner Revolution is simple. Steer your ship around the screen and kill the enemies with your auto-firing bullets while enjoying the pretty visuals, bleepy sounds and fine tunes (courtesy of Turbo Recordings). But that's only the very basic idea.
What defines Gridrunner Revolution is the ability to fire bullets at 'suns', causing the projectiles to bend and orbit around those suns. The effect is quite stunning. Jeff Minter calls it "bullet calligraphy". This innovative mechanic is also the secret to high scores. A multitude of variables are calculated to determine scoring. The steepness of bullet curvature and how long a bullet has been locked into a sun's gravity before hitting an enemy are just two factors that are taken into account.
Above: Bullets. Make them bend
Suns can also be shot until they explode, at which point they become black holes and everything on-screen consequently speeds up a notch. An exploding sun also spits out a pick-up, like a new type of ship to pilot. There are 14 ships in total, each with their own characteristics, such as superior bullet curve, faster rate of fire and so on. And, brilliantly, you can change ships on the fly by simply rolling your mouse wheel.
Besides shooting enemies and bending bullets, there are also sheep to collect. Obviously. Collecting sheep gives you score multipliers. Sheep also provide a last ditch chance for survival. If your ship is exploded, you're given a small window of opportunity to steer into a sheep and activate a 'Sheepie Save'. This restores your ship without any loss of life. One more thing about sheep - watch out for the grey ones. They're shy and run away, so are absolute buggers to catch. But you probably knew that already.
Above: The sheep is your friend. Grab it
So far we've done our best to describe Gridrunner Revolution. And we think we've done a modestly reasonable job. But, as with most Jeff Minter games, adequately relating how it looks and sounds is the real graft. It's as pointless as trying to describe the northern lights. Only first-hand experience can really do it justice. The best we can do is guide you to the video of inexplicable eye and ear insanity below. It's seven beautiful minutes of the game being played on 'Vindaloo' difficulty. That's curry talk for 'Hard'.
Don't worry. When you actually play it and your brain has had a chance to get comfy, you totally DO know what's going on. It's a million times more accessible and playable than Space Giraffe. Gridrunner Revolution is insane and most definitely not your average shooter. But who in their right mind wants to play shooters of the average variety? We'd rather have a piece of this action any day of the week.
Gridrunner Revolution is out later this year for PC.