Jeff Minter has carved quite a niche for himself by endlessly revisiting Atari's arcade vector-graphic classic Tempest with ever-trippier visuals. Now, imagine he branched out and tried his hand at other games. If he took a crack at Defender, the result just might be Housemarque's Resogun.
Resogun places players in control of a ship with the same basic setup as Defender's craft, and even the same basic premise. You can move freely in any direction on a 2D plane, but you can only shoot left or right. The environment consists of a torus that you can scroll around (and loop around) freely, simulating the infinite looping scroll of Defender's design. There are even helpless humans that alien marauders try to abduct. Seriously, it's Defender, but with high-definition graphics and completely ridiculous particle effects and physics.
Well, to be fair, the "ridiculous" aspect of the game extends to far more than its flashy graphics. Housemarque, after all, are the guys behind Super Stardust, so your targets consist of far more than just the odd ship or three. Wave after wave of enemies assault you, flocking onto the screen in thick patterns that grow constantly more deadly. Simple ships give way to cluster of ships wafting projectiles, which are soon replaced by cannon emplacements that sprout from the ground and spray bullets, to massive dragon-like beasts.
The action gets pretty hectic pretty quickly, though rescuing humans before aliens can swipe them and depositing them in the safety of a base at the top of the screen will grant your ship some hefty gun upgrades to even out the odds. You also have a limited supply of screen-clearing super-bombs for when you find yourself overwhelmed.
There's really not much to the game, at least as far as I was able to make it. After surviving several minutes of increasingly brutal enemy ships, you'll eventually face the boss: A spinning wheel of indestructible gun emplacements spouting dozens of projectiles in every direction. You can blast out the panels between guns, revealing the inner core, which is pretty much a pure shout-out to Gradius' Core Ships: The boss' heart is walled off behind three glowing blue shields that you have to take out one by one.
Not that it's that simple; the core constantly spins within the outer shell, and the two layers are linked by intermittent bursts of fire. To take out the boss once and for all, you need to maneuver into the narrow space between the shells, dodge the flames, and pour damage onto the core. Unfortunately, this is pretty tough to accomplish; you have to take special care not to let the core walls touch you, or else your ship will explode on contact.
I whittled the boss down to its very last defense before bumping into its interior walls, so I didn't see what lies beyond stage one. But my performance did net me the second highest score of the day. I don't think that speaks so much to my skill as the fact that I kept replaying the game until I finally got a hang of the action and managed to survive for more than a minute or two. But no matter; the important thing is that I wanted (and want) to keep playing. I'd never heard of Resogun before today, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be the first thing I buy for my PS4.