The space shooter is the humblest version of the arcade genre, but that purity is definitely something that shouldn’t be passed over due to a perceived simplicity. Vitreous is pure arcade, with a nice little speed mechanic tied into it to keep the intensity up.
All the coolest early arcade games were set in space (up yours Pac Man), from Space Invaders to Galaga. As such there’s always something quite warm and welcoming in games when enemies start slowly making their way onto the screen, hanging in place before attacking you. That said, there’s no dual-ship mechanic like Galaga, and the screen doesn’t quite fill up like in Space Invaders – instead Vitreous has a combo upgrade system and a pace which is increased as you complete the game’s level loop.
One thing that games have specifically started doing over the years is cheating in the favour of players: XCOM fudging the percentages and FPS games making you immune after you are clipped by a bullet. Arcade games were certainly never known for this, and Vitreous doesn’t mind hitting you while you are down. As a matter of fact, when you do get hit you lose a weapon upgrade level, which actively makes the game harder for you. That said, it does serve as a life-buffer of sorts, in that you don’t fail the level immediately at that point.
Perhaps most interesting though is the fact that you can skip levels. You’re presented with a path choice at the end of each run, where you can jump ahead a level if you wish (this does change slightly later), meaning that you can get to the boss in three levels rather than five, should you wish. Once you’ve done the boss, too, Vitreous changes too, speeding up a little. It all seems very simple, but it is actually a really cleverly made arcade-simulation which ramps up difficulty only after you’ve already seen the level patterns. Very smart.
Vitreous can be played in your browser for free over on itch.io or wherever you get your Pico-8 carts.