In the depths of space, a lone ship fights off empire squadrons compelled to crush them into stardust. The rebel fights valiantly, taking down fleets hundreds of times their size, but is eventually shot down by a small drone biting at the back of the ship. After exploding and dying in a fiery blaze, the pilot wakes up exactly where they began, trying to figure out how to break the cycle of life and death in this lonely corner of the galaxy.
Modern take on the old school
Cycle 28 is an arcade style shooter taking influence from classics such as Asteroids and Sinistar. The game pits your little spacecraft against a barrage of enemies in a David vs goliath situation. Flight Lieutenant Olivia Bergen, a low ranking officer has been separated from her fleet and is stuck in a time loop, forced to engage in combat over and over again to figure out why this is happening. Your arsenal starts off small as you have just one gun to begin with, but as you progress upgrades become a huge benefit to taking down the enemy swarms.
The upgrade system forces you to ‘git gud’ at the game as you will only get access to a new upgrade once you’ve topped your high score. This is an interesting idea because the rewards are earned instead of handed to you each death, so you’ll be alert and consciously attempting to stay alive long as you can. It can hinder you greatly in the beginning if you get lucky on a run and get a really high score, as the upgrades won’t be accessed until you out do yourself.
The graphics are very basic but it could be argued that’s part of the retro charm. You are a blue ship and your drones are blue, but the enemy is a drab brown colour. They both stand out against the flickerly starlit voids of black space but there’s really not much to it other than that. However it doesn’t stick with the old school for the sake of it, the experience does feel like it has some twinges of present day gameplay.
Simple yet tricky control
The control is simple with one button to shoot and another to accelerate the ship, with the physics of space feeling floaty overwhelming at first. The mimicking of these boosters and gliding through space does feel natural after a while, but aiming to shoot is a little tricky. You can aim your ship to shoot in any direction but you need to have a great handle on your thumbstick as the sensitivity will have you overshoot your mark 5 times of 10. Options in the menu are bare bones with no way to adjust this so you might have to get used to mastering ship control in order to shoot at your targets.
Shooter with a mysterious aura
Bigger, badder enemies come out of nowhere the longer you play and the clock starts counting down to zero. Suddenly your screen is mobbed with lasers and star destroyers edging you to the edge of the map. Once you restart, more questions arise in the story, some that remain to be answered. The main character chimes in with clues now and then, but the reason why you are stuck in a loop is yet to be explained. Perhaps that’s a treat only for the best players who can truly master the game and find out the secret of Cycle 28. The developers have even announced a prize for the person who is able to get to the bottom of it, echoing back to the ARG competitions of Atari’s Swordquest.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Cycle 28 was provided by Pillbug.