Another month, another neon-infused twin-stick shooter for Xbox One. It can get tiresome with the same old gameplay being trotted out time and again with just a minor twist here or there to differentiate the current title from the others, but to write Tachyon Project off due to the sins of the games that have come before it would be wrong. You see, the twists that it provides are something a little bit special that do actually set it apart from the crowd.
Getting right into it, Tachyon Project does away with the standard twin-stick shooter method of being killed if you run into something. The game sees you controlling Ada, a computer program that is attempting to hack in to various systems, with the enemies being the programs that are trying to prevent access. You only have a certain amount of time to complete your task and this time is reduced every time you come into contact with an enemy. Taking foes out increases your available time, so being on the attack constantly in order to get that time boosted to the maximum is the order of the day.
That innovation is complemented by a few more interesting tweaks to the formula, as well. A "stealth" mode which allows you to effectively hide from opponents by not firing for a second or two allows for new tactics to be used. When you've got a wave of enemies heading your way in these levels, cooling the guns and hiding in the corner while your foes descend upon your last known position, only for you to nip in an drop a proximity mine to take them all out at once is massively rewarding.
Tachyon Project's story mode levels are split up into several checkpoints. You're given a task to complete such as surviving an onslaught for 120 seconds or defeating 200 of a certain enemy type, moving on to the next one when you complete it. This means that if you succumb to the system's defences in the next mini-stage, you can restart it without having to play through the entire level. You do lose your points tally for doing this, but it's an interesting change.
However, that change is something that will reduce the overall length of the game for those who decide to use it and that's not great, given that Tachyon Project contains just 10 levels. You can comfortably complete the game's story mode within a couple of hours and top out the achievements within a couple more – especially when you start changing the loadouts of your primary and secondary weapons, as well as employing perks such as the ability to deal more damage or for your bullets to bounce off the walls. The brevity of the game is an interesting thing, since it highlights exactly how much fun the concept truly is. You're most definitely left wanting more by the time the final level draws to a somewhat anti-climactic close, although you can always play one of the three score-hunting challenge modes if you need to get more out of it.
Despite the praise, there are some flaws to be found. For example, nobody seems to have mentioned to the developer that in a twin-stick shooter, you don't mess with the flow of the action by purposefully slowing things down when certain enemies are destroyed. Take out a vortex-style enemy and the whole game purposefully slows down for a second or two, with the music warping to match. It can really throw you off your game and we could most definitely have lived without it. Speaking of music, there's a strange disconnect between the gameplay and the employed tunes, too. Rather than the crescendoing beats of Geometry Wars, Tachyon Project provides a similar genre of music that doesn't really match up with what's happening on screen. A quiet track will play out for the first minute or two of a level, only for silence to fall and then the massive, booming opening notes of the next track to come careening forth from the speakers as if something huge had happened in the game. Again, that's something we could live without. The soundtrack is otherwise very good, but it just isn't used properly.
These flaws may sound major but it should be noted that in the grand scheme of things, Tachyon Project is an entertaining game. Some of the enemy designs are a breath of fresh air for the genre (although the vortex-type enemies are a little bit hit-and-miss with regards to how they work) and the concept of using time as energy is nicely implemented. A lot of attention has been paid to getting the action balanced just right and we'd be more than happy to hear of some sort of sequel or DLC.
Tachyon Project is a twin-stick shooter with a few major differences that affect things in a positive way. Enjoyable and thrilling while it lasts but also all too short and a shade too easy for those with any sort of skill in the genre, it's one that will surely hit the spot to while away an afternoon. Just don't expect it to last all that much longer than that.