What a short strange trip Death Ray Manta is.
The psychedelic acid trip twin-stick shooter promises arcade blasting fun while overstimulating the eyes with its neon-soaked wireframe aesthetic. Two questions remain is it any good but more importantly, is it worth the dreaded “Switch Tax”?
Death Ray Manta is a no-frills arcade arena-based twin-stick shooter. Those familiar with the XBLA classic Mutant Storm or its sequel will feel right at home zipping around the arena cleansing each stage of its enemies before quickly starting anew on the next level. unfortunately, that level of simplicity describes the entire experience. There are no upgrades, there is no progression, just a non-stop romp through the 32 levels of increasingly more chaotic madness. The absence of a leaderboard really detracts from what could be a strong indie title.
A colourful neon minimalistic approach.
Visually, the neon wireframes are bright and colourful. The minimalistic approach suits the title well and is a joy in short bursts. The caveat of short bursts is a must as the on-screen carnage quickly becomes a mess of exploding neon pixels and laser lights. Getting lost in the action was a constant frustration but never enough to deter from an overall enjoyable experience. The crispness of the colours really helps this title stand out as it could have easily gone with a more muted approach. The enemy design follows suit in terms of simplicity and nothing is memorable or stands out.
Audio-wise, DRM is loaded with a fairly solid synthwave soundtrack. While nothing is truly noteworthy it absolutely fits the title and compliments it more than most soundtracks. The digitized voice work is eerily reminiscent of Bezerk from the Atari 2600 days and will bring a smile to the faces of older gamers. The constant explosions and lasers can drown out the score but nothing is out of place either.
Being a twin-stick shooter, you know what you’re in for.
Just don’t expect anything else. Your left stick directs the Manta while the right stick fires… that’s it. You are now a pro. The devs say as much in the ‘How to play’ section which was a cheeky way of explaining the simplicity here. Everything is smooth and handles well. Given the limited use of inputs, there is nothing to single out or gripe about.
The real question here is value. Far be it for us to determine how much a dev should charge for a title. Currently available on the Nintendo Switch for $10 USD/£9.99 it’s a hard sell when the same title can be had on Steam for $1.99 / £0.99. Also keep in mind that, the current Steam price is NOT a sale. With no enhancements, additional content or upgrades it’s hard to say that this is worth 5 times the cost just to download it on your Switch. The niche genre itself doesn’t have a ravenous enough base to uplift the title either making this a hard recommendation.
Death Ray Manta SE is a competent neo-retro title. What is present is fun in bursts and has enough excitement to bring you back for just one more round. However, once the initial trapping wears off, you are ultimately left with a hollow experience that misses the point of most arcade games. The lack of a leaderboard really hurts this title. Those who enjoy competing against themselves will look past this, but it also serves as the anchor around the neck for this title. There is no progression, there is nothing new to find what you see in the first 30 minutes is what you get. Add to that, the cost being 5 times higher on Switch and there just is no value to be had here. The trippy visuals and ’80s infused synthwave cannot save what ultimately is a floundering experience.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 19/10/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Shooter, Arcade
Developer: The Future Of Videogames
Publisher: Thalamus Digital
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop