What can I say? INVERSUS Deluxe is in every way shape and form a very basic game. Basic visuals, controls, and colours with a basic objective. After all, you control nothing more than a black or white square on a series of black and white tiled maps. Dull, right? Well, not quite. Participate in a couple of matches and it will soon become clearly evident that this very simple looking title is actually a hell of a lot of fun. Why? Because of the simple and timeless gameplay fundamentals that it leans so heavily on.
From developer Hypersect, INVERSUS Deluxe is a top-down arena shooter that shares a vibe to the arcade classics such as 1974’s TANK!, 1980’s Pac-Man and the even the more recent Asteroids-inspired Nintendo eShop release, Astro Duel Deluxe. The rules are very simple, your aim is to shoot your opponent before they shoot you. Of course, there is a little more to it than that for every game has its gimmick and, in this case, my walls are your paths and your walls are my paths. This may sound a little vague, so please, allow me to explain.
You have full control over your character with the analogue stick and each face button is used to direct your shot. In creating a path, you simply fire a bullet. This causes the tiles under your bullet to flip to your opposite colour allowing you to move freely across them, and because your opponent can only move across their own opposite colour, your changes will obstruct their path. This can, in turn, lead to strategies of trapping your rival and even baiting them out to seek that perfect read.
As far as countermeasures go, besides just shooting a path to scurry to gain some breathing space, your opponent is able to still defend themselves by cancelling out your bullet with their own, and, if they time it just right, they can even reflect your bullet back towards you at twice the speed. This allows great opportunities to instantly turn the tables or even to employ this risk or reward method as a tactic on its own. You can also spend three bullets on a single charge shot to clear a much wider path, but bear in mind that your ammo is limited to only five in the chamber, so think about that when you’re trying to hunt a mouse with an elephant gun because, if you do run out of bullets, you will suddenly become extremely vulnerable.
The amount of ammo you have left is helpfully visible on the top of your square avatar and you can collect more on the map when available, including a few single-use special bullets. You can always wait until your ammo recharges, which can sometimes feel like forever especially if your opponent is fully loaded and on the attack – turning it into a merciless game of predator vs prey.
It comes to no surprise then that the hook is in its multiplayer. You can compete in a head to head duel of wits, or work together as a team in a 2-vs-2 battle, you can even take it online if you want. Sure, that too is pretty bare bones but it all seems to work perfectly well and you can even play local whilst you wait to be matched up. Once you find an opponent you’re able to compare rank points and have an insight of their skill level beforehand. Best of all, you can do all this with a few mates across the net, or even pass a Joy-Con to whoever is sat next to you and tee-off with the online opposition together. If you want to play strictly co-op, whether it’s online or off, then it may be the perfect time to face the ever challenging Arcade mode.
In Arcade mode you face swarms of enemy squares as they gradually close in on you. They move slowly at first but they will soon pick up the pace the longer you survive. White enemy squares can also be thrown into the mix with the added ability to shoot you back. If multiple enemy squares are in proximity to each other then you can cause a chain reaction combo with single shot destroying several of them at once as they drop that ever precious ammo behind them. This, in effect, feeds you a similar sense of satisfaction that the likes Tetris can provide when clearing a stack full of lines, especially when you’re at your threads end staring into the eyes of failure.
If you’re a sucker for high scores, then you’re in luck, because all of the 11 maps in Arcade mode require a certain amount of stars to unlock them. Every level has a possible five stars to obtain and you must hit certain scores to inherit them all. The fifth star, in particular, demands an absurdly high benchmark of points. Of course, you don’t need to collect all the stars to unlock all the maps on display, but for the Billy Mitchell’s out there, this could be the type of challenge that you may crave for. One thing’s for certain, whether it’s a star you’re aiming to reach, or beating a friends score on the leaderboard you will undoubtedly be sweating your back out as you begin to be claustrophobically overwhelmed by horrible little squares like dribbling toddlers at a free tuck shop.
The sanitised blacks and white shapes that hold the game together are as neat as you would expect in an HD world of today. The thing is despite INVERSUS Deluxe‘s uncomplicated look, or because of it even, I began to imagine participating in different scenarios depending on the flow of the combat.
One match would feel very Pac-Man as the player on the map changes frequently from dominant force to fleeing coward. The next would feel like a John Woo-style church shootout as we both almost acrobatically dodge each other’s bullets whilst taking cover behind gaps in the stage. Even the Arcade mode is essentially a survival horror as crowds of Bronies try to molest your pony (or zombies, you know, whatever nightmare floats your boat). The point is, because the visuals are stripped down to its purest form, the rest can be left to interpretation. This isn’t a cop-out or an excuse. It’s just an easy observation that a great game doesn’t necessarily need to hide behind great graphics.
Although a better experience with friends, INVERSUS Deluxe provides plenty of gameplay for the gaming nomad. With AI opponents that can span from being a pushover to the incredibly unforgiving. The addictive arcade mode where survival and a good strategy is key, and a more than competent online mode to test your skills against live opponents, which believe it or not, can seem to be a bit of a rarity on the multiplayer indie market.
If you have a soft spot for the arcade classics from back in the day, or even hold a competitive bond between friends, then INVERSUS Deluxe is a no-brainer. To be able to pull this title out of your bag wherever you want makes this now portable coin-op style experience a fantastic addition to the ever convenient Nintendo Switch. Whilst it may not provide hours of longevity, it’s definitely one to go back to time and time again. Especially in the company of good, like-minded friends.