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Dimension Drive (Switch) artwork

Dimension Drive (Switch) review


"A shooter that's heavy on concentration and light on immersion"


The 2D space shoot-em-up genre has been dying an excruciatingly slow death for perhaps two decades now; only diehard collectors of the niche bullet hell subgenre have kept the modern shmup on life support. As a fan then, itís always a win to see one -- especially one thatís not of the bullet hell variety -- come down the pike. And yet, when a genre is so fundamentally simplistic, when itís been around so long, and has seen so many soulless forays through the years, even a fan can appreciate the whys of the genreís mortality. How many times can you go to the well with a lone pilot facing down the invading, malevolent alien hordes? How many paths to the waterfall?

Sometimes the trick is just ramping up the production values and hoping that the layers of polish will act as a lubricant to help ease the game into the collective consciousness of an audience that is beyond jaded and indifferent. And sometimes the trick, is A Gimmick. The latter is the case with Dimension Drive. The Gimmick here, is that we have a vertical shooter played out on a split screen -- but both split screens belong to you, the single player. The Gimmick is that you must monitor the action on both sides; the side your ship is on, and the flip side where your ship is represented by a glowing magenta dot. If you run into danger on the left side, chances are, thereís a safe path on the right inviting you to teleport over.



These more deliberate thinking shooters seem to tax a much different part of your gaming brain than do the twitch variety. In terms of simple bullet and enemy evasion, Dimension Drive is a pretty easy affair. Nearly the complete sum of the challenge you face -- and itís pretty stiff -- is down to navigating environmental hazards on the dual battlefields, knowing when to teleport in real time, even as the stimuli and the speed at which the decisions must be made threaten to overwhelm and overload your brain, eventually bringing about an ill-fated teleport into some immovable object when you were safe right where you were.

The game seems to feel for us, to pity us our limited processing power, as it were, and so it supplies several aids which can be earned throughout the game. By collecting special cubes, you can unlock a function that permits you to slow down the proceedings, and later, a function that permits you to dash side-to-side through enemies and barriers alike. Later levels will require that you slow down the action in order to take in your surroundings carefully: before dashing between rocks and gates to secure power ups and secrets and special gate unlocks; before cautiously jumping from screen-to-screen to avoid smashing into dead ends and to appear in nooks and crannies that one side will furnish even as the other side provides only solid rock and death.



And so, with Dimension Drive, The Gimmick is good. Not Ikaruga-polarity-shooter-popularizing good, but good nonetheless. The issue is that thereís not much game on offer, in both a literal and substantive sense. There are 13 fairly short levels across three worlds. The worlds are fairly nondescript affairs and the enemies are generic alien spacecraft fare. Even if the developers were limited to 13 levels, they might have spread them out among more worlds than just three. Since the screen swapping gameplay can be taxing, you will likely endure a lot of deaths and replays, and itís much less fun when those keep happening in the same places, and much less fun still when those same places arenít very interesting to begin with.

Dimension Drive on the default, "Normal" level, offers an appreciable difficulty curve -- again, not due to bullet slipping, but due to screen flipping. It has an admirable way of making you feel both smart and slick when you pull off the back and forth transitions in all the ways the developers meant you to at once: snag that power up, kill that wave of enemies, go back and kill the wave appearing on the other side, navigate to that empty patch of space here, warp over and pick up a hidden item in a tight spot -- it can all feel remarkably rewarding. But the game's sights and sounds offer little to nothing that you might call singularly memorable or engaging to convince you that youíre on a proper journey, or mission. As such, Dimension Drive's unique gameplay might see you through one short, tough session, but its world won't invite you back.

3/5

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (July 24, 2018)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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Feedback

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EmP posted July 27, 2018:

The new Steam chat interface is shit. How is this relevant feedback? Well, it means that it often says Iím online when Iím not so I come back every day to messages like this

MASTERS: I posted that review!
MASTERS: Have you read the review yet?
MASTERS: Hello?
MASTERS: Iíll take your silence as being intimidated by the greatness of my review.
MASTERS: You pretentious limey bastard!
Ö
MASTERS: Have you read the review yet?

So, to offer belated reply at such a time as I am, you know, awake (which I tend not to be at 3am GMT), yes. Yes I have.

Happily, itís a game Iíve been watching for a while. As I am the authoritative voice around here on scrolling shooters, Iím often interested when developers manage to break the old, old shmup conventions, which this games does and you cover well. It even does them well with the ability to warp between two screens. It would have been easy for you to just ride this innovation to the end of the review, but itís tempered well with lowered expectations when it comes to level choice and design. Iíll probably still end up with a copy of this game some when down the road (itís the curse of being the one everyone looks to for indie adventure horror weird shit shooter opinion, I guessÖ.) but I know what Iím getting into now clearly.

Capitalising the g in gimmick was pretty clever, too.
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Masters posted July 27, 2018:

Haha, I love the inclusion of REAL, AUTHENTIC QUOTES from me, very nice.

Anyway, thanks for finally reading and commenting. ^_^ Just one to go!

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