Announced in the middle of last year, ID@Xbox’s newest twin shooter, Project Root, has finally made its way on Xbox One. You enter the shoes of Lance, the hero who, unsurprisingly, has to stop the bad guys, which is this case is Prometheus Co. The way he does this is to shoot bullets, a lot of bullets, from a little spaceship that you must navigate round the levels, whilst defeating enemies and completing objectives.
The story plays out in pictured cutscenes before and after each mission, with no speaking and the same generic music being played throughout. It is quite hard to connect with characters who don’t move or speak, and the worst thing is the conversations that happen mid mission between Lance and his team are pretty much impossible to follow. The reason being the speech pops up in a box in the right hand corner, with writing so small it is almost impossible to read whilst keeping your eyes on your ship. What you can follow of the story is expected, from evil baddies to strange goings on you must investigate (and that definitely won’t be a trap like last time!). The levels themselves are fun to play through, and are a nice length but unfortunately have no checkpoints so if you die it is back to the start, which sometimes can get irritating when you die right at the end and have to start all over again.
As far as twin stick shooters go, Project Root is more than enjoyable. You’ll be fighting both airborne and ground enemies, with right trigger shooting straight and left trigger shooting down. For the more difficult enemies you will be coming up against, especially the “boss” type ships at the end of most levels, you’ll be needing something a bit stronger. For that, there’s pickups to find from dropped enemies that are mostly perfect for the job. A variety of homing missiles and lasers are your best bet, with spanners and extra lives also on offer, and others items too such as shields and bullet vaporisers. There’s a small but nice variety of pickups, and their appearance is not so much it makes the game too easy, but not so sparse that you get stuck.
Enemies will be coming at you from all sides, so you’ll be wanting to master the spinning technique of your ship, allowing you to spray bullets at all sides. Whilst it might seem a little tough at first, you will soon master it, and upgrading your ship will help you even more on top of that. Being able to upgrade everything from attack speed to weapon strength gives you the chance to strengthen your ship how you like, but as the levels get tougher its easier to see which upgrades will help you the most. The XP needed to upgrade will come naturally through level completion, but new players to this genre may feel the need to replay earlier levels to upgrade the ship a bit more before tackling the harder ones.
One slight niggle with the game is the graphics. Whilst the ships themselves are nicely detailed and the colours and style fit nicely with the space shooter theme, it is the backgrounds that cause the problems. There is an epilepsy warning at the start of the game, and its easy to see why they had to put this in. The repetitive scenery of trees and buildings, accompanied sometimes with continuous rain or snow, can quite easily send your eyes a bit funny. It wouldn’t be surprising to come off the game with a headache if you were playing the worse levels for quite a while, and you feel like maybe more effort could have been put in to fix this. The fast paced camera, while good in for the in game action, also doesn’t help make the backgrounds any less headache inducing unfortunately.
For gamers that like a challenge, there are 3 different difficulties for you to complete the game in – easy, normal and hard. Your ship upgrades don’t transfer across these though, so it will be back to square one with your ship each playthrough. There are also achievements related to completing each difficulty, as well as each level, and combined with a few random kill and death achievements, it makes for quite a decent achievement list for 1000G. It was never going to be a big budget game, and for what Project Root set out to do, it does well. It just feels like corners were cut and that there a few niggly things they could have improved upon to make it a great game, rather than just a good game.