Debug Formulation is a Space Invaders style shooter with uniquely challenging mechanics. Though its steep difficulty curve may be a turn-off for some players, the simple gameplay and unlimited replayability should be enough to warrant at least a demo download from curious passersby.
The setup seems very familiar. Your spacecraft is at the bottom of the screen, enemies are on top. Destroy them all to advance to the next level, rinse, and repeat. However, Debug Formulation makes things a bit more complex than its cabinet-sized predecessors.
As you destroy enemy ships, they release power cores that float slowly toward the bottom of the screen. If you destroy a power core, it then becomes a green powerup orb that boosts your movement and firing speeds. The concept is simple, but it gets pretty hectic when you have a few dozen of these things falling at once. Each core takes three shots to crack, and each shot pushes it a little higher on the screen. It feels like a juggling exercise as you try to keep all the cores in play while simultaneously collecting powerups and dodging enemy projectiles.
I should mention that most of the game’s mechanics were discovered through trial and error. My ship felt slightly more responsive as I collected powerups, but it was never immediately noticeable until I died and started over from square one. I spent the first two levels mashing the fire button before I found that I could hold it down to increase my rate of fire. I also learned, through a slip of the finger, that I had a warp ability. It was never advertised in control tooltips, nor was it necessary to play the game successfully.
Debug Formulation looks and sounds great, despite its cryptic gameplay nuances. Ships and projectiles are made of simple polygons that give it a distinct arcade aesthetic. The audio combines procedurally generated 8-bit effects with eerie Metroid Prime style soundscapes for an (almost) relaxing experience.
All in all, Debug Formulation comes together to deliver a satisfying arcade shooter. You could play this game forever in theory, because it has no final level. Most will probably give up before reaching Wave 10,000, but even just the first few waves are worth checking out for a few dollars.
+ Great retro sound design
+ Simple, addicting gameplay
+ Unlimited levels
- Unexplained game mechanics are not easily discovered
- Playing with a keyboard is difficult
$2.49 for a well-designed, but tough, shooter with potentially unlimited replayability ain’t too shabby. Plus, it has a free demo, so what have you got to lose? Try it.
Debug Formulation was released on February 27th, 2012 for PC via Desura.
Developed by jph_wacheski