If you’re a fan of easy-to-pick-up but hard-to-put-down arcade games, you’re going to want to check out Caverns of Mars: Recharged.
The most recent game from Atari’s ‘Recharged’ series reimagines the 1981 vertical scrolling shooter, Caverns of Mars. If you haven’t played the original, it doesn’t matter one jot. Even if you have, what you’ll find here is a modern take on a concept that bears little to no resemblance to the source material. It’s for the best, really: some things are left in the past. But Caverns of Mars: Recharged feels fresh, clever and gloriously replayable.
There are several ways to play Caverns of Mars: Recharged. The first is Arcade mode, essentially an endless mode that tasks you to get as far as possible, with the highest score you can get. Your ship automatically moves down the screen, and it’s up to you to dodge obstacles, shoot enemies and keep yourself alive. Along with destroying rocks and taking out enemies, shooting also slows you down, and so you’ll have to tactically fire bullets as you manoeuvre tight corridors. Just don’t shoot too liberally, because your firepower is limited.
Alongside Arcade mode is Challenge mode where you’ll find a series of individual short levels. One might task you with making use of one particular weapon, while another might throw a lot of one type of enemy at you. You’ll get a score for each one, so you can replay to set records if you like – although simply reaching the end may be enough of a success for some players (us).
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If that’s not enough for you, you can also play Caverns of Mars: Recharged in local co-op. Both modes can be played as a duo, with co-op putting a very interesting spin on things: one player navigates while the other shoots from a separate drone. It’s a nice twist on the standard gameplay, but unless you and your partner are completely in sync it can be an exercise in frustration. Still, it can provide a short burst of fun before you get fed up of going down in flames.
Or at least, it would provide a burst of fun if it wasn’t incredibly buggy. While our time in single player has been flawless, co-op mode seems to be riddled with issues. In just one short play session, we had the screen stuck on black, with only the game’s menu available to us. And upon dying, it crashed, forcing us to quit to the console’s menu. Far from ideal, but hopefully these are issues that will be quickly ironed out with a patch. In the meantime, perhaps stick to playing solo.
It’ll come as no surprise to hear that Caverns of Mars: Recharged is no walk in the park, but it doesn’t matter. It’ll take a few failed attempts to get to grips with the game’s nuances, but eventually you’ll learn when to shoot and when to hold fire as you weave between obstacles like a pro. A good run feels oh-so satisfying, and a failed run simply makes you want to dive in to try again. This is the type of game that you can lose hours to as you repeatedly hit the retry button, vying to get just that bit further or achieve a higher score.
Caverns of Mars: Recharged is the type of game we can see ourselves diving into again and again; it’s the sort of thing we’ll intend to pick up for just 10 minutes, but find ourselves still fixated on two hours later. It’s a simple concept, but it’s incredibly enjoyable – another roaring success in Atari’s ‘Recharged’ series. Just stay away from the co-op mode until its bugs have been ironed out.