Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Other formats available: Steam
Developer: Gray Fin Studios
Publisher: Gray Fin Studios
Website: Official Website
Dual Core is a vibrant, futuristic, twin-stick style shooter.
In the year 2147, the human colony, located on Europa, has suffered a terrible fate. Rebooting after hibernation, two super-intelligent AI cores awake to find themselves installed within a couple of old security drones. Their attempts to uncover what occurred may end up becoming a lower priority than merely surviving…
Dual Core is quite simply a twin-stick shooter. And, these types of games can be hampered by loose or sticky controls. Fortunately, no such problem constrains this game’s controls. All potential Wii U controllers are available to traverse Jupiter’s moon, including use of only a Wii Remote, not the best choice for the precision aiming required, but very handy if a fourth player wants to jump in and you lack all other more suitable options. General control is rock solid, movement that starts off slow and sluggish, improves significantly after a few upgrades and your robot persona will be flying along. The right-stick shooting is precise with no input lag, so feels tight and does what you want it to do when you want to do it.
There are a plethora of enemies to shoot, in terms of variety of design and on-screen action. There are times when you are beset by over 20 enemies at the same time, and strafing around feels frantic and pleasingly difficult. Starting off at a pedestrian pace the game picks up speed and difficulty at a steady rate. The learning curve is well paced and by level 10 the player’s abilities are truly tested. The whole game looks retro-anime-cell shaded, runs incredibly smooth even with all the explosions, enemies and laser shots, and after putting over 8 hours into Dual Core not a single blip of slowdown was in evidence. A solid and smooth playing experience.
Another nice addition to Dual Core is the added spice of RPG elements. This lends longevity to the whole experience. Currency is in the form of 3 different coloured gems. A blue gem merely gives you more energy up to your maximum. It’s the red gem that will extend your maximum energy beyond its current level. Where the least frequent and handiest green gem allows you to enter the upgrade screen to purchase additional level advancements to your Laser, Health, Regeneration, and Speed. These upgrades can be shared to and between all players in a co-op game.
In game weapons start with simple lasers bolts, that can upgraded permanently, and temporarily, with Super lasers, stackable triple shots and homing missiles. Additional weaponry come in the form of bombs that can be chosen either with a double-touch on the GamePad screen, or by holding down the L shoulder trigger, scrolling with the D-Pad and pressing X. Freeze, explosive, EMP, and poison bombs are all present and have enemy specific uses. Once collected, additional robotic assistants can be placed into the fray as and when required, these helpers bolster your firepower by acting as additional turrets, handy in attack and defence. Extremely handy Health Packs that give a player an additional 10HP per use can be placed between all co-op players to enable communal healing sessions.
Dual Core has three main modes for players to attend to. Story mode lets you battle through labyrinthine corridors of Europa’s colony as you attempt to shed light on the calamity that has occurred. The story is approached through interacting with computer terminals and reading the logs of humans in turmoil. Battle wave after endless wave of the alien horde in the arena-style Arcade mode. And lastly, and leastly, Versus mode pits you against up to 3 friends. Dual Core is at its best in the first two of the aforementioned modes. Arcade Mode is a personal favourite that is as fun to play as to watch. All RPG elements survive intact in all three modes, but the Versus mode feels rather lacklustre due to lack of on-screen frenetic action. Only 4-players shooting at each other, weak compared to 20 or so.
Off-TV play, as already mentioned, is not the only use of the gamepad, also you’ll find inventory management for Player 1 with a quick double-tap of what item to use. Other players are regulated to scrolling through their inventory, but this works surprisingly well even in the heat of battle.
Dual Core’s choice of background music is perfectly chosen for the topic at hand. Futuristic light techno with bouncing bass and soothing space discordant melodies. It’s a slight shame that the good Sound Effects, even though distinct from the background music, are a little on the underwhelming side, explosions should and could be bigger.
The only frustration in evidence whilst playing Dual Core is in its mechanics of interaction with other players. Whilst you can’t take damage from a co-op player, or the computer AI players, they can shoot you, and block any projectiles that are meant for the enemy instead. A little niggle that can be a little frustrating in narrower corridors. Also, be careful how you choose to heal yourself, using a constant supply of health packs early on in the game might leave you vulnerable to the increasing difficulty of later levels.
Dual Core, a simple twin-stick shooter, is more than it sounds. A smooth and solid experience which is built upon a long-lasting Story Mode. You probably won’t get much out of the Versus Mode, but the delightfully wonderful Arcade Mode more than makes up for any of that mode’s shortcomings. A must for all lovers of Smash TV.
First reviewed on Nintendo: Review by Lee Davies.