I’m usually not a fan of Xbox’s arcade game selection, and why waste precious Microsoft points on games when I can use them to buy more rock band songs? Ikaruga is the exception. It’s your everyday classic vertical shooter em’ up, with a big twist. Your ship can switch between two modes of “polarity” with inverting effects. Light polarity absorbs light based attacks and deals critical damage to dark enemies. Switching to dark polarity absorbs dark based attacks and deals critical damage to light enemies. The whole game is based around this concept of polarity.
This game is very simple, consisting of 3 buttons: fire, change polarity, and release a charged attack from absorbed attacks. While holding down fire and swerving around to avoid enemy fire seems simple enough, there’s another puzzle like twist to it. You can put together chains of 3 to gain a bonus to score. And with the the light and dark enemies scrambled together, this can quite the challenge to put together a respectable chain.
Ikaruga is insanely difficult no matter what difficulty you pick. The screen is littered with black and white dots, and you’re immune to half of them. Boss fights are over the top and very punishing if you making one wrong move, so fast reflexes are a must here. Two player co-op makes Ikaruga a little less daunting to attempt, but still challenging regardless.
There seems to be some lag issues in Ikaruga, but nothing game breaking. On certain occasions, like the explosion of a boss, the frame rate slows down to a crawl. It might be intentional, but it did stand out. And playing two player co-op over Xbox live often presents a delay in control, for example it may take a half a second for your ship to move left when you press left on the joystick. When this issue occurs depends on who you are playing with. However, there is no delay when playing a local or a system link match. What I also dislike is the fact you must play for extended periods of time to gain more continues. For every hour you invest into Ikaruga you gain another continue to use for a another attempt to run though the game.
Overall Ikaruga is a must have for fans of the shoot ’em up genre. I recommend trying the trial version first for everyone else before considering purchasing. For me this was definitely worth 800 Microsoft points.