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DUX, DUX 1.5 and Redux: Dark Matters Bumper Review

There are now 3 games in the DUX series and there’s so little to help tell them apart that it would be incredibly difficult to dedicate a full review to each of the games. This is why we’ve decided to tackle the DUX series with a ‘bumper review’ which highlights the key differences between the 3 games and help fans of the shoot-em-up genre decide which game best suits their needs.

DUX

The first game in the series lays down the groundwork for the following 2 games. This is a 2D, side-scrolling shooter where you pilot a little space-ship and shoot everything in your path as is par of the course for shmups.

The controls are very simple; tap the X or A button for a constant stream of low damage bullets, hold it for a charge beam that does high damage but opens you up to enemy bullets, press the Y button button to launch your pod at the expense of your front shielding and press the R trigger to enable bullet soaking which allows you to absorb enemy bullets as long as your “obvious energy” gauge is full. Defeating enemies allows you to gain obvious energy to fill this gauge.

DUX is an extremely manic shmup with barely any time for you to take a breather from enemies or bullets. You need to be on your toes throughout the entire game because one small lapse in concentration means you’ll probably collide with the scenery or take damage from the multitude of bullets on screen. Power-ups are available to help with the process like an additional sub-weapon which takes the form of missiles, side protection as well as increased fire-power and rebounding lasers. You can also checkpoint your stage progress by collecting a gold star.

Unfortunately, the manic nature of the action becomes the games downfall as it is often very difficult to spot enemy bullets. This is a problem with the games visual design which uses bright pastel colours which often clash with enemy fire as well as your own.

The other issue you face is how to tell how much damage certain enemies will take. The first stage in particular is littered with larger enemies that simply block your path and you regularly run out of screen space before you can charge your laser. DUX generally feels unfair to play in a lot of cases purely because of how difficult it is to judge the enemy’s power or even see their bullets.

We can’t finish without mentioning the infamous score bug that occurs in the first stage (and also lead to the development of the next game in the series). An issue with one of the checkpoints enables you to rack up a ridiculous score which also gives you a large handful of extra lives. High score shmup fans will be instantly disappointed that this bug can be exploited and lead to scores which essentially break the competitive nature of high score gaming.

DUX has its fair share of problems that some extra quality assurance could have prevented. Unfortunately, the game ends up being too difficult and a bit broken which results in some incredibly unfair and frustrating gaming.

4/10

DUX 1.5

DUX 1.5 attempts to correct a lot of the issues that plagued the original as well as adding a brand new soundtrack composed by Andrew Neuman and Marco Groß. The key improvement is the fixing of the checkpoint bug in the first stage which gives high score players a much more fair and challenging task.

Other changes include a rebalancing of enemies which means you do more damage enabling you to make progress a little easier. This also helps the gameplay feel more rewarding and not like you’re being punished for things you could never judge in the amount of time the game gives you.

Changes have also been made to the control scheme which now means you have a specific button for rapid fire shooting and another for the charge laser. This also helps solve the previous game’s issue of having to furiously tap the same button for rapid fire.

You can also switch between your sub-weapon which means you now have the option to fire missiles horizontally and vertically. This also helps you clear difficult to reach enemies that hide in places a horizontal shot could never reach.

Overall these improvements lead to a much better experience that feels like you are actually playing a game designed to challenge you instead of make you feel like you were destroyed undeservedly. When you die in DUX 1.5 in genuinely feels like it was your fault instead of the game’s. There are still some minor issues with the choice of colour scheme and how it can sometimes obscure enemy fire, but these generally don’t effect the experience nearly as negatively as the first game.

8/10

Redux: Dark Matters

The latest game in the DUX series comes in the form of Redux: Dark Matters and if you haven’t guessed already it is essentially a remake of the original game. What Redux adds is new, detailed graphics, a second “advanced” playable ship, another new soundtrack featuring Chris Hülsbeck and a new use for the bullet soaking mechanic which allows you to lock onto enemies and launch an aura beam at them as long as you have enough obvious energy. Stage layouts have not been altered despite the cosmetic overhaul.

Also added is a new scoring mechanic which means that enemies now drop gold for you to pick up. Unfortunately, this leads us to our first new problem with the series in that the gold a) looks like giant, gold testicles and b) it once again makes it difficult to see enemy bullets. This problem is also alleviated with the new advanced ship which has a wider spread shot which also obscures enemy fire. Have Hucast not learned their lesson!?

The big problem with Redux comes with its presentation. For some reason a choice was made to lower the resolution of this game to one more in line with NG:DEV.TEAM’s Last Hope. This is a really peculiar design choice as Redux doesn’t feel like it’s really doing anything different then the last two games. The action is just as manic and the graphics are still pre-rendered (despite being a little more detailed).

The major side-effect of this lower resolution is what it does to the presentation. The game looks washed out and somewhat blurred which also obscures the action now the stage graphics are more detailed. Generally it manages to cheapen the whole experience which is a damn shame seeing how long Kickstarter backers had to wait for the game. It’s also bad advertising on the part of Hucast as this lower resolution was never mentioned once during the game’s Kickstarer campaign and every Dreamcast trailer for the game showcased a much higher resolution (Hucast have sneakily added comments since the game’s release about how their trailers are captured using the PC version).

Overall Redux feels like a step back for the series which adds a whole heap of new problems in with its exciting new additions. There is also another game breaking bug in the first stage that means the entire game freezes if you steer too close to the first boss. What should have been a bold leap forward for the series is a decidedly average and disappointing game.

5/10

Written by Sonic Yoda on 08/02/2014

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