Super Space Serpent SE / Perpetuum Mobile Bundle Review (Switch eShop)

Remember Jeff Minter? Both Perpetuum Mobile and Super Space Serpent SE are heavily inspired by the likes of Tempest and Polybius, and this is no bad thing. There’s always room for more wireframe, purple, and nice liquid trance beats in the gaming world.

Although Perpetuum Mobile sounds like an iPhone game, it’s actually a music-related term describing “entire musical compositions or passages within them that are characterised by a continuous stream of notes”. So there you go. It’s also a video game that originally came out on PC, Xbox One, and Oculus Rift as a VR experience last year. Both games in this bundle are scoring games, and this is the simpler of the two: a procedurally generated, 3D endless runner where you head into the screen, laser auto-firing, destroying and dodging incoming obstacles. You can grab health icons to keep you in the game, and new enemies are introduced as you perpetually increase your speed. You can only move left and right, and there are no buttons to press, making it a pretty basic affair.

While it might have worked better as a VR experience, it lacks scoring intricacies and immediacy, and is neither particularly engaging or varied. That said, the music is nice, and the visual style, while simplistic, is fine. What it needs is a little more in the way of development for the average score addict. There are no prominent visual or audio cues to tell you when you’ve collided with an object, meaning you have to constantly eye your health counter in the top right corner, and some kind of speed boost, smart bombs, or weapon power-ups would have made it more interesting. As it is, you just zone into the endless, unbending, streaming tunnel, try to stay alive, and increase your digits. You’ll give it a few runs, but it won’t hold your attention forever.

Super Space Serpent SE, on the other hand, does the Minter tribute rather well. It has Tempest vibes in its evolving house beats, distorted voiceovers, and visual scoring feedback, blasting wry praise all over the screen. In spite of its simplicity, it’s a much more involving scoring experience than Perpetuum Mobile. Set against a trippy 3D gridline backdrop, the game operates in 2D within the confines of a square arena. You steer your ship with the left stick and fire in 360 degrees with the right, firing at diminutive alien craft, missiles, and object formations as they pour out of warp portals. It starts casually enough, letting you get a feel for positioning, camping spots, and how to navigate the arena, but really hits its stride when you clear the first boss stage: a Star Fox Andross-esque wireframe head. From stage 12 onward, the challenge is most certainly on, and, while it doesn’t reach the lofty adrenaline-fuelled heights of Jeff Minter’s finest, Super Space Serpent SE still plays a frenetic little score attack game.

There are random health extensions to be nabbed, and falling number tickers that can grant increased attack power. Soaring around the warps, spraying bullets in every direction at encroaching swarms, and trying to survive the countdown that will end the current wave is pretty good fun. It must be mentioned, however, that the alien objects are so tiny in handheld mode that they’re tough to keep track of over the pulsing purple background and various pyrotechnic effects. We also aren’t too fond of the green screen handicap that hinders your vision should you unwittingly grab a ‘6’ from the power-up box. Later in the game it can completely kill your run.

At $12.99, this package could have been slightly cheaper, primarily because Super Space Serpent SE is the main attraction and Perpetuum Mobile feels like a B-side bonus. Neither title is going to redefine your expectations of what an indie game can achieve, but if you enjoy classic score attack arcade games like Robotron, and can’t get enough of Minter-esque trippy audio-visual combinations, you’ll enjoy sinking a couple of hours into climbing the leaderboards — but probably not much more.

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