Monday 10 December 2012

Fruitmatter (PC/Mac)

Anything with even a hint of pixellated neon, demoscene-era design cues tends to catch my eye, so I knew at first glance that Fruitmatter was a game I just had to check out. It's not often one comes across an indie arcade shooter that really brings some unique ideas to the table, and this title turned out to be quite the sweet treat in that regard.

Coded in Unity 3D, Fruitmatter is the creation of Markus Kallio, who describes himself as a "graphic designer from Finland" but doesn't give many other details about himself or his game. Perhaps he's a man of mystery? A Google search reveals a spartan G+ profile and precious little info, but rest assured Markus, us players want to know more about what else you have in store. (One tidbit - a G+ post reveals a prototype iOS version of Fruitmatter. Do want.)

Anyhow, on to the game! Fruitmatter is an interesting recipe that blends a hearty dollop of arcade shooter, mixed with rich time management elements and garnished with a tiny sprig of tower defence. The player is a spaceship which rotates in an orbit around a "black hole" in predetermined sectors. This black hole spews out three types of evil anomalies, which, according to the very silly plot, respond only to three different types of fruit attacks, and can be thusly destroyed. In addition to the organic projectiles, your ship has a mining laser and a time slowing device at its disposal. The former can be used to instantly destroy any of these three anomalies, and the latter's function is obvious - it slows time. To complicate matters further, there is a fourth anomaly wrapped in a black shield. The ship must utilize the aforementioned mining laser to break down this shield to reveal this entity's true colour, then destroy it.

As these deadly spheres travel down each sector from the black hole, they grow nearer and nearer to the essence of each sector, which is marked by a life bar at the end. Upon reaching the end, the anomalies will suck the life from each precious sector until it is "dead." This is where the defence element of the game comes in; as players progress through the game, sectors can be healed by hovering over them, and one has to prioritize where to hang out on the playing field based on this. Lose three sectors, and it's game over man, game over!

Upon first entering the Tempest-like game screen, Fruitmatter seems somewhat tame. A few measly entities trickle out of the singularity and are easily dispatched, the player pressing "a," "s," or "d" to launch the required fruit. Advance a few levels, however, and Fruitmatter -- like the black anomalies under the mining laser -- begins to reveal its true colours. As more and more multi-coloured beasties roll towards the end of your sectors, you frantically zoom around attempting to manage to not only defend but also destroy, the brain struggling to compute which colours to use when. Furthermore, you will often find yourself in a dilemma: Do I create the biggest chain I can to trigger an explosion and clear the board? What if I fire the wrong fruit and bork the whole thing and perish in the blink of an eye? It is here that the time management elements really shine through.

I found myself playing Fruitmatter much more than I expected. The various gameplay elements fuse together to create something that can truly be labelled "addictive," an overused term that has lost a lot of meaning lately. Fruitmatter is addictive in the way truly addictive things are, in the sense that I went back to play it even though I had other things to do, or other games I wanted to play, because I had to have just one more go. Although the game is polished, there is room for improvement; for example, the background environments and effects could be more varied, and from what I could tell there was only one background music track. A game like this really needs both those elements to ascend to greatness, but Fruitmatter has earned a permanent place on my desktop - I know I'll be coming back to this one for quick gaming sessions for quite a while.

Download the demo/purchase the game here (from the Fruitmatter website).
3 out of 5

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