Psychosis (TurboGrafx-16) review
"Absolute beauty that lies just past your unconscious, right under the skin..."
The demon Ugar has taken over your mind. Expel him with resolute force, in this often-brilliant side-scrolling shooter. It's rather difficult to stand out as a shooter on a system that was inundated with them, but Psychosis manages this feat due in large part to its unique theme. Using your unconscious rather than outer space as the hostile world that you must penetrate, allows for all manner of weirdness, both in locales and enemies. True, in the end, it's still just a shooter, but the creative, psychedelic environs give this HuCard a texture not often found in the genre. That, in and of itself, deserves mention and commendation.
The agility of the bass heavy tracks consumes us immediately, and doesn't allow us to escape until the bitter end (and the end is bitter; I had hoped that we were rid of the 'play through it again!' endings awhile back). The tunes are often unsettling and unnerving. Don't mistake the offbeat style for sloppiness; the programmers knew exactly what they were doing with this score—engaging the player and setting him on edge.
The magical graphics are the music's perfect partner in establishing the weirdness of the mental gulf that serves as your playfield. Beautiful visuals will grace your screen as you play Psychosis, and the sights you see will surprise, delight, and disturb you. Among the oddities: red-blocked pseudo-mazes to navigate, and dark gardens populated by peculiar plant life and turning white masks to cruise through. Butterflies scatter, their fluttering wings bothering your vision, as the first boss appears onscreen.
A brown, wooden turtle may use his shell to protect you on your way through to a boss that attempts to impale you with giant blades from above and below. The world of Psychosis is a strange and wonderful one, but it is filled with menace and fast moving, bullet-absorbing enemies, so you would do well to try to focus on the task at hand.
Psychosis is one of those 'thinking shooters'. It's relatively slow, it requires methodical movements, and it expects some ‘excursion preparation’ on your part, otherwise progress will be reluctant about arriving. If you're anticipating a twitch shooter along the lines of Gaiares, you're playing the wrong game; Psychosis plays more like R-Type than anything else. You’ve even got a pair of satellites, which you can maneuver about to block enemy bullets, and utilize to position and aim your own weaponry. The two indestructible spheres orbit your ship, your sentry in this journey through the mind, and can be anchored in place with the press of a button, only to continue their revolution with another press of the same button.
The weapons are not very exciting: you’ve got a lightening bolt type attack, an orange wave cannon, and a back shot available to you. The wave cannon is the only weapon that I found to be remotely effective, and when powered up a few times and paired with the hard-to-find shield, you will be in good shape.
Herein lies the trouble. It's bad enough that Psychosis only has five levels (here, 'Causes'), but worse still is the fact that power ups are few and far between. If you get powered up by the time the end of the Second Cause comes around, you will incur the unenviable burden of having to be almost perfect the rest of the way. That is, if you die after Cause Three, you may not be able to get powered up again. There seem to be only two shields available throughout the entire game. As in many shooters, if you should be unlucky enough to perish during the Final Cause of the game, you will find your stock weaponry highly unsatisfactory and underwhelming. But unlike many other shooters, there won't be a thing you can do about it.
It's unfortunate that such an inspired, good-looking and sublime-sounding project should fail in such a fundamental way; but that is Psychosis' fate. It's a testament to how well everything else was done that the game should be so outstanding and likable, despite the unbalanced difficulty. Should you perform in such a way that your ride is rocky, you will hate the game temporarily, but intensely, and you will likely wallow in that sinking, throw-the-game-out-the-window feeling. However, 'thinking shooter' fans, should you manage to stay sharp and play a near perfect game, you will find that Psychosis reciprocates.
Staff review by Marc Golding (September 10, 2003)
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