Science is complicated, and for those of us who barely eked out a passing grade in high school biology the human body in itself is a frightening machine, especially when it breaks down. With somewhere around 50-100 trillion cells making up our fleshy temples, it’s overwhelming trying to grasp how our bodily machinations maintain each of these microscopic building blocks.
I always imagined it had something to do with tiny ships massacring incessant throngs of marauding viruses, I just never knew how right I was until playing Biology Battle.
Another addition to the ever-growing shoot ’em up, or shmup, genre, Biology Battle is developer Novaleaf Game Studios’ entry into Microsoft’s expanding Community Games roster. While sticking fairly close to the tried-and-true code of the modern-day shmup, there’s enough personality and humor in this independent title to warrant a run-through.
As its name suggest, Biology Battle chronicles the ongoing war between science and the army of nasties who invade our cellular walls. Players control a nanobot sent within the deep recesses of the human body, charged with eliminating any and all objects that may pose a threat to the mission at hand. Imagine the videogame adaptation to the 1987 sci-fi film Innerspace.
But where Meg Ryan and Martin Short were the points of interest in the ’80s cult classic, swarms of colorful, marauding shapes and a penchant for pop culture references are the stars of Biology Battle.
Much akin to shooters like Geometry Wars, Biology Battle’s mechanics involve using the left analog stick to pilot a small craft around an enclosed stage, while firing at any and everything that moves with the right analog. A number of other controls, such as boost and a special attack, are assigned to the shoulder buttons while a series of power-ups littered about the stage engage additional lines of fire, or an engulfing haze of electricity.
The meat of Biology Battle is standard stuff, with few surprises in store for those who frequent the shoot ’em up genre. Racking up massive scores while constantly keying the trigger is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, an experience that is sweetened a little past bland with the inclusion of nearly every film and videogame quote, social blurb, or meme in the past 30 years.
As players act out the motions of geometrical genocide the game will constantly quip with one of many topical quotes, from “Why so serious?” to “Do or do not, there is no try.” While these little blips don’t affect the gameplay in any way, they add a much needed sense of humor and personality to the overall experience.
The remainder of the game is on par with other independent shmup titles, with a soundtrack that is workable but not terribly catchy. Sound quality dips at times, coming off as a bit scratchy, especially during an opening sequence which features a female speaker that sounds more hoarse than robotic. The effects themselves are clean and workable, but don’t do much to stand out from other similar games.
Visually the game is very clean, and distinct enemies rushing about the stage and a number of special effects that could give some Live Arcade titles a run for their money. Dozens of enemies will litter the stage at time with no slowdown in sight, with creative and varied designs ranging from nondescript blobs to huge, screen-filling worms.
The modes themselves are standard fare, but considering this is a Live Community title, the number of versus options is very impressive, and the variation a pleasant surprise. From a basic survival mode to lassoing monsters with the ships tail, the single match versus options are many and a standout feature for an otherwise par title.
The inclusion of a makeshift leaderboard via the Global Challenge mode is a bit unnecessary, as play mimics the normal game mode but ranks the match against other Biology Battle players. Killing two birds with one stone by just ranking each normal player match globally as well as locally would have been a better option, but seeing as Microsoft doesn’t offer the same Live leaderboard options to Community Games developers I can understand the need for a work-around.
The only real low-point for this polished shooter is the price point, a steep 800 Microsoft Points, the same set for Bizarre Creation’s Live Arcade Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, a far superior title in most respects. While Biology Battle could easily fetch a few hundred points as a regular Live Arcade title, when faced between numerous other games for the same price, the matter of value tends to waylay Noveleaf’s shoot ’em up.
A workable contender in the Live Community, Biology Battle is a worthy addition to the shmup library, but whether or not players will want to throw down 800MS over other Live titles could keep this quirky shoot ’em up from the ranks inhabited by better games.