Not Enough Amperage
While the twin-stick shooter genre has grown quite a bit thanks to the indie explosion, Circuit Breakers separates itself from the crowd by offering six-player co-op. There is a lot of fast-paced action to be had with this $6.99 digital download but there is not much staying power or options to make it great or a must buy.
The game is called Circuit Breakers because you play as one of several playable characters on a quest to destroy anything that moves. There is no background story as to why the player takes out throngs of mindless robots but the gameplay is smooth and fast with zero frame drops. Each playable character controls the same but has a different weapon that provides a solid reason to experiment with them all. For example, one character shoots a laser that can take out a line of enemies but doesn’t have a wide radius. The rocket launcher guy, like the laser guy, shoots straight but explodes on impact. The shotgunner is great for crowd control but the mini-gun character gets pushed back from the force of the gun. There is a give and take with each character so building a balanced team is the key for success.
Playing with friends is important but difficult due to the limited local only co-op. The lack of online play is the game’s major downfall as getting six of your friends huddled around a single TV is difficult in 2017. Unfortunately, the difficulty always remains the same no matter the number of players that are available. Playing single player, I was only able to beat level 10, the first boss, a couple of times. If I had a few other teammates join me, this task would have been much easier and actually more entertaining. Circuit Breakers also does not feature any stat-boosting RPG leveling features or even power-ups. You just stay in a single screen and shoot waves of enemies until the green goal path opens. If you took the 4-player no power-up element of Gauntlet and mixed with the single screen arena of Smash TV or Robotron, Circuit Breakers would be the result.
Besides six player simultaneous play, the other gimmick behind this action shooter is the energy/ammo mechanic. When enemies are destroyed, they drop energy in the form of these crystal shards. Once enough energy has been stored, each character’s weapon will increase in power, or shoot faster, or shoot wider – aka, do more damage. The balance of this system relies on the accuracy of the player. If the player misses or mindless shoots, the crystal shard power will run out quickly, leaving the player with a water pistol. Luckily, this give-and-take system doesn’t get in the way and mostly remains balanced.
One cool thing about this twin stick shooter is that is keeps track of all types of stats. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the stat tracking and unlockable achievement board of Smash Bros. Also, to be clear, Circuit Breakers cannot technically be called a twin stick shooter because it doesn’t fully use the right stick. Each character can only shoot in four directions: up, down, left and right. While the player can use the right analog stick to fire the weapon, I found it much more accurate to use the face buttons since the analog stick can awkwardly get stuck in the 45 degree angle position but might shoot right or might shoot up.
Circuit Breakers is a one trick pony. With no leveling up, the same stages repeat (these are not randomly generated), and no power-ups, the player can only have so much fun with this low-cost game. If you can gather a few friends around your TV, then sure, you can easily kill an hour here or there. But single player only players will want to look elsewhere.
Also available on PS4 and Steam.
Not As Good As: Halo: Spartan Assault
Also Try: Livelock
Wait For It: Robotron 9999