Cycle 28 is a fast-paced action space shooter that would sit perfectly at home in an early 80’s arcade. From the off, it feels like a cross between the Atari classic Asteroids and a game that my friend created when we were at school called Mayhem, which was essentially an online multiplayer take on this formula. Developed and published by Pill Bug Interactive it is a love song to that old school kind of game with some modern twists thrown in.
At its core, the game is super addictive and instils a drive that pushes you to adventure deeper into the far reaches of space in a bid to beat that last score. You take on the role of flight lieutenant Olivia Bergen, her ship has unfortunately become separated from the fleet it once stood proudly alongside. Cycle 27 is what you know as home and you live it over, and over, and over again – yet Cycle 28 is a complete unknown to you.
The game boots up super fast, flashing a retro graphic of the spaceship before loading in the menu system. It’s simple, clean and well presented but would have benefited from the use of a much bigger font size as in handheld mode it was tiny. The limited options allow you to start a new cycle, view and manage upgrades, check out the leaderboard as well as some other minor game settings. Graphically the game is very basic with a near monotone sprite based craft set against a pixel star field, having said that fancy graphics wouldn’t make the gameplay any better so I’m perfectly happy with the aesthetic.
As you play the aim is to accumulate points by killing enemies and reaching the end of the cycle. There are a few different variations of craft to take down, each with its own unique attack and movement pattern. The screen regularly becomes awash with bullets that need to be dodged or outrun in order to stay alive. Your ship can take a certain amount of damage before getting into a critical state, another hit after that and it’s all over but taking a step back for a few moments allows for the shields to recharge and its action stations again.
The controls took a little getting used to, the left stick spins the ship with the right trigger providing forward thrust. At the start, it’s far too easy to hurtle off in a random direction only to find yourself scampering around in an attempt to retrace where you wanted to end up. The face button activates the ships’ weapons, there are also a number of upgrades to unlock in the game. These range from improved projectile options to different classes of protection drones. Multi-shot, rear gunner, broadside and the defence drone particularly came in handy the further I progressed. The game only allows you to have two of the upgrades equipped at any one time so it’s a case of working out which combinations give the greatest reward. This is probably not in the spirit of the game but after a couple of attempts, I decided to wipe my save data as my initial runs had me wanting to get the highest score possible but then it dawned on me that I was missing a trick. The upgrades are unlocked by beating the previous highest score and in starting afresh I purposely kept this as low as possible only incrementing my total a fraction each time. Within minutes I had all of the upgrades at my disposal.
After going into Cycle 28 blind and spending time learning how to play I had a lot more fun than expected. There is enough mystery to keep you coming back for more in a bid to solve what’s actually going on. If you are a fan of retro style space shooters then it’s worth your consideration.
Beard Score: 5/10
Genre: Action, Arcade
Publisher: Pill Bug Interactive
Format: Steam, Nintendo Switch