ReviewsReview: Flowing Lights

Review: Flowing Lights

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No matter what your favourite genre is, I think everyone has a soft spot for Shoot-’em-ups. The arcade classics are fast-paced and addictive as hell. You can easily find time to have a quick blast on these casual titles, and half of its attraction is the mindless nature of its gameplay. How would you feel if this classic genre slowed down and added a tactical flair to its approach? Flowing Lights has done exactly that with its attempt at a much-loved gaming staple.

Developed and published by GfAuMnE this is a vivid retro Shoot-’em-up that kills you, spawns you back in, and demands that you take a logical approach. With a simple 3D bottom to top scrolling perspective, you must observe your enemies, create a plan, and clear each stage.

Flowing Lights has a deceptively simple premise.

What is undoubtedly great about Flowing Lights is its straightforward premise. From the first level, you are hooked on its mind-bending mechanics. Before you know it, your session has spiralled out of control and hours of your day have simply melted away.

The game revolves around an odd space theme. You control a purple triangular spaceship intending to clear each stage as quickly as possible. Your enemies, presumably aliens, fire an array of lasers and bullets toward you. You must observe the pattern, dodge the projectiles, and annihilate everything in your path. It all sounds simple, right? Wrong, its simplicity lulls you into a false sense of security, and failure is just around the corner. The ease of the opening levels is just the tip of the iceberg, and it soon gets much more complicated.

Don’t let the simplicity trick you.

Long shots, combos and limited time.

Now, I opened by saying that Flowing Lights was slower-paced than your traditional Shoot-’em-up. This doesn’t mean the action is lethargic or there isn’t pressure from a ticking clocking. You are graded on how quickly you clear each of the two hundred stages. An S grade is the pinnacle award and takes an awful lot of skill and luck to achieve. There is no requirement to get the maximum score and if you don’t, it won’t affect the gameplay. Yet there is one constraint that will stop your progress, fading aliens! This group adds pressure, an exceptional amount of difficulty, and the desire to scream. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Other than the ticking clock, you must consider which weapon to use, the arc of your cannon shot, and killing multiple enemies to get combo bonuses. The surrounding world peaks and troughs to create hurdles that must be overcome. But they can be used to your advantage! Fire your cannon against a hill and watch its trajectory alter as it bends with the contours of the land. It was a brilliant feeling as you manipulated the stage design in your favour.

You will dip and swerve past enemy fire as you aim to position yourself perfectly. Choose between your forward focussed lasers or the booming pulse cannon. Both have their advantages, and you soon discover that you’ll die multiple times before you find the right combination and approach. 

So many mountains to climb.

Flowing Lights has used an old-school genre with a modern look.

It’s easy for developers to stick to retro aesthetics when they choose a classic genre. Flowing Lights uses a modern style to create a colourful yet simple game to look at. The bright neon hues and pulsing lights give this a futuristic atmosphere. I was reminded of Tron with its clean-cut lines and garish tones. With four worlds to visit, the developers did a great job of creating interesting and unique backdrops for each one. The action is very similar throughout, but the change in landscapes prevents it from having that Deja Vu experience.

The audio plays the perfect supporting role. Its robotic tones and upbeat tempo help to enhance the futuristic vibes. It also has a dreamlike quality that seemed at odds with most of the gameplay, but somehow it merged perfectly. The sound effects, however, were very run of the mill. They worked well, but neither shocked me nor disappointed me.

Go with the flow.

Tight and simple controls.

With much of the gameplay requiring quick reactions and the negotiation of tight spaces, it was fortunate that the controls were easy to pick up, responsive, and well designed. There is nothing complex about playing this and you’ll spend your time working out how to solve each segment, rather than focusing on the controls.

Two hundred levels all requiring a perfect approach and lots of luck. If that doesn’t scream replay value I don’t know what does. However, if you ignore the glory of the S rank, you’ll spend hours completing every stage, and if you are a completionist, you’re in for a tough time! You must nail every level at the maximum rank to finish this, and that’s a task I don’t envy.

Flowing Lights was a pleasant surprise.

I’ve played plenty of indie Shoot-’em-ups and every one of them reverts to form at some point. Flowing Lights is different! It has designed its core concept around a unique slower-paced principle, and I absolutely loved it. Mindless shooting is one thing, but add in some tactical nuance, and you have an addictive game that screams, play me! You should have this in your library, so buy it here! Spawn in, get killed, and create a plan. Welcome to this unusual Shoot-’em-up title.

SUMMARY

Flowing Lights is a deceptively challenging Shoot-'em-up that tests your patience, planning, and reactions. Use the surrounding world to overcome your foes and complete your plan.

+ Modern retro graphics.
+ Robotic audio with a surreal touch.
+ Easy to learn, but tough to master.
+ A challenging achievement list.
- The final stages may be too tough for some.

(Reviewed on the Xbox series X. Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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