Conditions are terrible, it's five to a cell! That cry will be heard the length and breadth of the country any day now. Thing is, it won't be prisoners complaining about conditions, but your very own body. Unknown, unseen and unexpected a virus is attacking mankind, but luckily the Assembly line has come up with the Vaxine.
For all its medical trappings Vaxine is a shoot-em-up, puzzle game hybrid. The world you patrol is packed with half-spheres sticking out of the floor, the healthy cells you're out to protect. Floating around are huge balls of three different colours - these are the virus which want to attack your healthy cells and they are generated by polo mint pucks that skate around the place.
Playing should be simplicity itself. While driving around, you fire out the correctly coloured Vaxine balls to hit virus spheres, thus killing them. When there's no more virus cells left you've finished the level. Every four levels there's a bonus screen, for loads of bonus type thingies.
Defeating the virus is no cakewalk, because for microscopic non-cognitive life-forms they're pretty smart. Similarly coloured virus cells try to bind together so they can attack a healthy cell; a minimum of three is needed for an assault. These long molecular strings bash around in the most improbable way and are exceptionally awkward targets. Even singles bounce in a nil gravity fashion that tests the shooting eye. Then, there's the fact that Vaxine and virus look identical once fired. As the misses mount, then confusion reigns.
Like virus particles, Vaxine spheres can be fired in a long string. This not only looks rather smart but also allows the germ bashers to roam the playing area with a greater chance of snagging a victim. As each level reaches a climax, Vaxinators are seen rushing madly around trying to find that last blue virus. Trouble is if you run out of Vaxine of a single colour then it's game over; if all the healthy cells are sucked dry of life, it's the same story.
Why would anyone want to play a microbiology simulator? you may well ask. For the thrill of screaming around a surreal ray-traced 3D world facing a rapidly multiplying threat with an ever decreasing supply of vaxine, that's why. As the levels progress it builds to a head-spinning, eye-blurring test of straight thinking in a mad, bad, diseased world where the virus is king and Vaxine's only a temporary remedy.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Vaxine is a visual feast of pig out proportions. The shapes may be simple, the floor designs are basic geometric patterns, but they all move with a speed that beggars belief - a factor hammered home with universal ray-tracing. Vaxine looks just how it should, and that's beautifully odd, carrying a modernist theme to biochemical levels. The results shock at first and enchant later. The sounds in the game are suitably strange with echoing impacts and disconcerting squidge noises. The soundtrack, however, is obviously the first victim of Vaxine starvation and sounds definitely poorly in parts.
Vaxine is strange enough to elicit only two possible reactions from players. It's a love-hate relationship with nothing in between. It may be viewed as little more than a luck-based romp around a pretty landscape with some poorly-disguised blasting, which barely merits the occasional game. Alternatively it can be seen as the direct heir of E-Motion, but takes even more time to master. The latter appears to be the truth because there's gameplay in abundance in them there balls. The introduction of the puck-like virus generators, the time-stopping doors and the bonus star shooting range all conspire to take the game to great heights. It's a high speed challenge that engages the brain as well as the synapses so seek out some Vaxine, your doctor recommends it.
Vaxine is the cure to those generic blues, yet its very individuality may alienate some players. It's worth struggling to understand, if only to see the more outlandish levels. Excellent coding and wild graphics make it a game to be reckoned with. If you're suffering from the same game blues, rejoice, there's now a Vaxine.
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