Happy happy, JoyJoy

Review of radiangames JoyJoy on XBLIG: Buy
radiangames’ dual-stick shooter is beautiful, complex, and casual-friendly.

radiangames JoyJoy is one of the best dual-stick shooters I’ve ever played.  I enjoyed it more than Geometry Wars—and I didn’t think that was possible, especially for an XBox Live Indie Game.

First, the presentation is beautiful.  Muted solid colors and subtle gradients, clean lines, and geometric designs give the game a unique styling.  Color schemes gradually change with advancing levels.  Smooth animation and effects add visual interest.  It’s a welcome change from the sparse, retro space battles many dual-stick shooters offer.

For a dual-stick shooter, it’s complex without being too complicated.  There are six weapons available for switching out on-the-fly.  These include the standard Vulcan cannon, the enemy-seeking Hunter, the wide Impulse beam, and the ricocheting Reflect beam.  In addition to the standard right-stick firing, each weapon can be charged up with the right trigger for a special effect.  I found the multiple weapon choices  added an extra dimension to the gameplay—every time I died and had to replay a wave, I’d reconsider my choice of weaponry.  (Because the weapon icons show up below the ship, it’s somewhat cumbersome to switch in the midst of combat.)  In addition, Burst and Vortex powerups occasionally appear, which spawn effects that damage or attract enemy ships, adding variety to the gameplay.

The best part about JoyJoy is that it’s extremely casual-friendly.  Don’t take that to mean it’s easy—with a wide gamut of 7 difficulty levels, it can still provide a challenge for hardcore appetites.

I found it quick and painless to restart the wave I’d just been playing from the game over screen.  It didn’t feel like an interruption or a disappointment, but part of the natural flow of the game.  If the game itself becomes too frustrating, there are “modifiers” that can be activated, such as Quick Charge, Rapid Fire, Awesome Damage, and even Invulnerability.  These significantly decrease the amount of points earned, but provide a way for even the greenest of newbies to enjoy the full game.  (Confession: for the last five levels, I cranked up the difficulty to Expert and turned on Invulnerability.)

JoyJoy features a variety of gameplay styles.  In campaign mode, waves of enemies are punctuated with boss fights.  Challenge mode is a fight for high scores in one of six different scenarios.  In either mode, a second player can jump in at any time.

JoyJoy gets and enthusiastic Buy.  Again, this is one of the best dual-stick shooters I’ve ever played—in terms of gameplay and aesthetics.  Novices and hardcore gamers alike will be pleased.

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