"When Iridion 3D was released as part of the Game Boy Advance launch lineup in 2001, it was almost without question the greatest technical marvel the system had. The jump from GBC to GBA was such a great one that most developers didn’t know how to utilize it, yet this little space shooter, as boring and uninspired as it was, managed to pump out an amazing 3D engine unlike anything I’d ever seen on a handheld. It was the kind of game you’d buy alongside your system with the sole intention o..."
When Iridion 3D was released as part of the Game Boy Advance launch lineup in 2001, it was almost without question the greatest technical marvel the system had. The jump from GBC to GBA was such a great one that most developers didn’t know how to utilize it, yet this little space shooter, as boring and uninspired as it was, managed to pump out an amazing 3D engine unlike anything I’d ever seen on a handheld. It was the kind of game you’d buy alongside your system with the sole intention of using it to show off the power of your brand new hardware to your homeboys. Not the kind of game you’d buy to, y’know, enjoy.
Well, six years have passed and within that time, the game’s technical achievements have been overshadowed in many ways. And sure enough, Iridion 3D is still the same sucky-ass game it always was. Only now, it doesn’t have an excuse.
The very first level of Iridion 3D has you flying down a long disposal tunnel. It’s a good-looking tunnel, I’ll give it that, and the animation loop used to create the illusion that you’re actually passing through it is quite astounding. But it’s just a tunnel. A big, long, unchanging tunnel. There are some enemies you need to destroy (or you can avoid them; it doesn’t matter, really) and the occasional industrial-strength fan you need to shoot through, but all in all, it’s just a tunnel.
I have concluded that traveling down one long, unchanging tunnel for the length of an entire level is the equivalent of flying through a cardboard tube. You can dress the tube up to make it look nice and sprinkle it with enemy ships to get the blood pumping, but really, how exciting can it be?
That is Iridion 3D is a nutshell: The whole game is just a big fucking cardboard tube.
Each level offers no interaction with the environment itself. You’re flying on painted backgrounds, backgrounds that look nice but are only there to fool you into thinking you’re playing a game that had a lot of effort put into it. With no innovation in the level design itself, Iridion 3D just boils down to “fly straight and fire at anything you see.” I realize that shooters have a heavy emphasis on shooting, but is it too much to ask for something a bit more complex than that? Are my expectations too high?
Of course, this problem could be solved if your enemies were actually interesting to fight. Whoops. None of them even make a passing attempt to kill you – rather, they just sort of hover there and occasionally fire at you if they feel like it. I was thinking about applying the common "if it moves, shoot it" description to this game, but this only works if your enemies move, and the mechanical villains of Iridion 3D can barely accomplish that. The one variation on this is the rare kamikaze ship, but even then, their flight patterns are so predictable that even the most unseasoned of shmup fans would have no trouble staying alive.
Aw, what’s the matter, game? Are you afraid to challenge me? The only difficulty I experienced while playing Iridion 3D was in trying to line up my gunfire with enemy ships, and that’s more a fault of the game’s goofy camera angle than anything. (In my mind, the word "difficulty" had sarcastic finger quotes around it.)
It’s boring. How could it not be? Nothing happens! You fly down dull corridors shooting at sleepwalking enemies until the level comes to an end. It’s a game that requires no brainpower, and in fact often doesn’t even require the player to DO ANYTHING. There was one level – set in an asteroid field – that I was able to clear by tucking my ship into the bottom-right corner and holding the fire button. The whole time. Wanna guess how many hits I took? One.
Only during the boss battles was there ever any semblance of excitement or energy, and even then, most of them can be defeated by simply flying in circles and holding down the fire button. Even the power-up system (which is where a lot of these games get their innovation) is a wasted opportunity, since there are no screen-clearing bombs or variations on your standard attack, and the pickups don’t really change your weaponry to any significance. Grab a few power-ups and watch in amazement as your red lasers transform into green lasers, purple lasers, or even gold lasers!
Somehow, Iridion 3D managed to choke up a sequel, and it was (unsurprisingly) better than its predecessor. I guess when you’re at the very bottom, the only way to go is up.
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