Akka Arrh is technically a game 40 years in the making.
A shoot ’em up from the legendary Jeff Minter, the mind behind the likes of Attack of the Mutant Camels, Tempest 2000 and Moose Life, Akka Arrh builds on a concept that was prototyped and abandoned in the early 1980s. Though while it has all the key elements of an arcade classic, it isn’t quite as captivating as some of the animal-lover’s previous hits.
In Akka Arrh, you basically want to be as lazy as you can be. Taking control of a space cannon, you need to fight off attackers so that they don’t steal your precious health orbs. Move your targeting cursor around the screen and tap a button to drop a bomb, and it will send a shockwave, destroying weak enemies caught in the blast. But what’s neat is that those enemies will also then explode, creating more shockwaves. Get it right, and your one bomb might clear an entire wave of attackers, with each successive kill increasing your score multiplier. Drop another bomb, however, and it will reset.
The trick to Akka Arrh, then, is to drop as few bombs as possible to maximise your score. But to make things more complicated, there are some enemies you can’t destroy with bombs. Larger foes and certain projectiles instead need to be destroyed with bullets. Luckily you earn these while killing enemies with bombs, and using bullets doesn’t reset your score multiplier. Don’t think about being too trigger happy though, as any bullets you have left at the end of a level is converted to your score. And if you manage to accumulate a huge store of bullets, you can even replenish lost health.
But Akka Arrh doesn’t stop there when it comes to mechanics: there’s also something called ‘the basement’. Basically, some enemies will make a beeline for your canon, descending into its nether regions to steal away your valuable health orbs. When that happens, you need to press a button to follow them, then eradicate them with bullets before they can achieve their goal. Add in other complications, such as multilayered combat arenas where the shockwaves your bombs create have limited effect and a range of power-ups, and you have a game that’s easy to pick up but hard to master.
Unfortunately, there are some issues that can frustrate. Thanks to its trippy and downright busy visuals, for example, it can sometimes be hard to spot small enemy projectiles on their way to damage your canon. Also, the basement mechanic is by far the weakest aspect of the game; sometimes you’ll enter the basement to deal with attackers, be taken back out of it when you’re done, only to have to re-enter it again almost instantly as there’s an enemy so close that you can’t possibly shoot them in time.
Still, if you thrive on arcade shooters that can be returned to again and again, Akka Arrh has a lot to offer. It can feel a little messy and unfair at times, but it’s an original concept that keeps you on your toes. And when you get into the zone it’s easy to get entranced by its abstract art style and unique soundtrack.