Voidrun is an action-filled arcade tribute to the nail-bitingly difficult arcade shooters of the eighties. Trading bullets for bombs, you navigate your ship through enemy-filled terrain, blasting holes through the ground and sending baddies to their doom.
If you are in the mood for a pixel-art arcade game that thrusts you right into the action with minimal instructions and high intensity spaceship runs, then Voidrun might be the game for you. In Voidrun, you navigate an unnamed spaceship as an underling to a supreme power known simply as ‘The Void.’ Using your spaceship, you are required to wipe out all life on four different planets. Doing this, however, is not as easy as it sounds.
Instead of the typical ‘shoot till they die’ trope found in most arcade shooters, Voidrun utilizes a bomb-based system that has you creating polygonal — or at the very least, somewhat roundish — patterns with bombs on the ground. When you complete these formations, the bombs will explode, destroying the ground or perhaps whatever poor creature managed to be captured within its circumference. It’s a gameplay mechanic I remember way back from the days of Qix and Jezzball and it works exceptionally well here, adding a sense of excitement to each potential ‘capture’.
After your bombs explode, they don’t fully detonate, but instead launch themselves off onto the playing field, ready to reap and use again. Blowing up the ground releases powerup capsules that add to your bomb total, so bombing often is encouraged. This creates additional challenge to the game as well — you now have to dodge through other enemies flailing about the playing field in order to recover your only method of destroying them. This ebb and flow of gameplay makes each run feel unique but good, as the combat and mechanics flow so well together. You know within seconds how to play the game and you either take them down or go out in a fiery blaze.
At the level selection screen, you are given the choice of one of four randomly selected planets/areas to engage. There are more than nine different areas to explore, each with its own set of enemies and rocking chiptunes track provided by Pentadrangle. While the layout of the land and monster starting positions are random, their number and which ones you will find is defined. This semi-procedural gameplay ensures a unique experience every time, but with the quality of some hand-picked decisions.
Perks also change how each run will go for you; introducing additional ship abilities, such as a shield if you have more than a certain number of bombs in stock or a magnet that helps you pull in bombs from a further distance away from you. You are given four at the beginning of each run and they are picked randomly as you stop a slot roll on a slot machine. Each perk benefits you in some way and you’ll find yourself having to conform to the playstyle that it offers you. You can also opt for a predefined ship, but it’s certainly more fun to play with the randomness of the slot machine.
The main challenge in Voidrun comes in the requirement to get near the enemies to blow them up. Unpredictable patterns and laser fire from the many different variations of baddies will keep you on your toes and constantly on the watch for fire from all directions. Since the map is a loop — think Defender — an enemy shot fired to the left might catch up to you on the right, and of course the many variations of that scenario. It keeps the field feeling a bit claustrophobic, but at the same time, gives you less landscape to worry about and keeps the enemies close to you so you don’t have to go flying around to try to find them.
While the game is still in development, everything so far feels like a complete package. The controls are tight, the gameplay loop feels great and the music is some of the best I’ve heard in a game in a long time. I am absolutely in love with the artwork of the ships and the bad guys, and each area is drawn so it feels unique and distinguishable. With new ships, palettes and difficulties to unlock, it’ll certainly keep you busy with its fair challenge and randomized runs each time.