What happens when you mix gameplay structure of Geometry Wars, with the color swapping survival techniques of Ikaruga, the pellet munch concept of Pac-Man, with Gauntlet’s pace and co-op-ability? Schizoid, that’s what.
Schizoid was built from the ground up using XNA programming tools and with co-op play in mind. Gameplay is simple as can be. From a top down view, two ships must kill onscreen enemies. The catch: the red ship can only kill red enemies while the blue ship can only kill blue enemies. This feature makes teamwork a critical point of gameplay.
Teaming up with a buddy over Xbox Live or local multiplayer provides a wealth of entertainment. Sporting well over 100 levels, the game’s progressively hard difficulty is frustrating, but at the same time, very rewarding. Right when think you are going to grow tired of killing lobster-like creatures, the game throws a new enemy at you that requires you to play and think in a different way. This keeps the game fresh and exciting.
Because destroying baddies involves nothing more than running into them (no shooting guns or lasers here), Pac-Man style, the player only needs one analog stick to control movement. However, if you can’t find a buddy to play with, there are other gameplay options available.
Because two ships always need to be on screen, the player has the option to play with a computer controlled AI buddy in “Wingman Bot Training” mode. Here, you control one ship while the friendly AI controls the other. For the most part, the AI acts favorably. However, it doesn’t create the same level of enjoyment as playing with a human buddy. This AI will definitely help you out in most stages, but there were several instances when the computer controlled ship randomly got stuck against a wall. It also doesn’t seem to know how to use the razor wire powerup.
This game definitely boasts co-op functionality, but the biggest bragging rights lie within Uberschizoid mode. Using one analog stick to control the blue ship while using the other to control the red ship, this mode contains the highest level of difficulty. Unless you are ambidextrous to the nth degree, you are bound to have a difficult time with this mode. While this may sound frustrating, and it definitely is, this mode will twist your brain and reflexes into a pretzel. But this is the genius of this mode. And to show off your brain power, this game’s achievement points will not just increase your gamerscore, but also your entire gaming reputation. The game also promotes playing through each level flawlessly. By not dying, the player is granted the full 100 points, whereas if you perish once, your score is depleted to 50, then 25 for dying twice. But because there is no time limit, players are free to take as much time as they need to complete a level. This feature alone helps to eliminate some of the stress and frustration that can pop up. Look to the leaderboards for flawless players.
The game’s psychedelic black neon theme gives the game a decent presentation. Definitely not as bright and shiny as Geometry Wars, Schizoid keeps the mood of the game darker and a little more mysterious. My only complaint about the entire presentation is the use of this creepy eyeball that pops up everywhere. Even though the player controls a space ship that kills deformed crabs, there is this eyeball that follows the user through the menu screen, the loading screens, and even stands as the game’s avatar image. I have no idea why this eye even in the game at all. It does not fit with the rest of the game’s mood, atmosphere, and presentation. It is just creepy…and a little annoying.
If you enjoy co-op play (and who doesn’t?), then you really need to take a long hard look at Schizoid. For 800 Microsoft Points, you get a lot of game. Yes, the game will frustrate the hell out of you and may cause you to punch your buddy in the face for his lack of analog control and teamwork, but beating each level brings a great sense of accomplishment. Schizoid’s simple to learn but difficult to master attitude makes this definitely one of the better XBLA games of 2008. Once you play the free demo, you will realize this game’s full potential. Check it out.