Linley Henzell is the creator of Linley's Dungeon Crawl, a roguelike that some of you may know today as Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. After Crawl, he went on to create some rather nice shoot em ups.
Henzell's games all follow a similar style that I feel makes them very fun to play:
- There's always a choice of ships, or at least a choice of weapons, allowing players to pick whatever suits their playstyle (you might expect that from a roguelike creator)
- Distinctive polygon-with-filling style and warm particle effects.
- Gameplay is always very hard from the beginning, but it's possible to make progress with practice.
- There's a LOT of dodging and close combat.
- There's always one ship or weapon which is very powerful but has some weird mechanic.
- The challenge is frequently random - you never quite know what's going to appear.
- There's normally weird, generated music in the background.
So I thought I'd review his games one at a time, and the first one I'm going to review is Transdimensional Hellspider. I'll try not to sound like a fanboy, but I've played Dungeon Crawl so much that I might not be able to avoid it. :)
Transdimensional Hellspider is, in Henzell's own words, a cross between Spacewar! and Warning Forever. I'm sure you all know those two games (look up Warning Forever if you don't, since that's well worth playing), and the result is a shooter game with a rotating and thrusting ship that battles a continuous series of increasingly large and complex boss ships.
The thrusting motion of the ship instantly creates a different style of play, however... in Warning Forever, dodging is fairly simple (not easy, but simple) whereas in this game, you can't just hop to the side when a projectile is coming your way. So it's more about thrusting at the correct time. Luckily, the hellspiders (the name of the bosses) are very inaccurate in this game, and your ship is small (only a hit on the centre will damage you). That doesn't make it much easier, but it makes it less annoying.
The hellspiders grow in segments, like in Warning Forever, and you can blast segments off. Each hellspider has more segments than the last, and supposedly adapts to your attack, although I couldn't see how exactly.
The hellspiders are actually weaker than Warning Forever's battleships - once you have the core exposed, it only takes a few shots to blow the whole ship to pieces, although it warns in the instructions that destroying the core without destroying the segments makes the next boss much stronger.
Unlike Warning Forever, you can increase your own ship's power as you play: every three hellspiders, you're given an option to upgrade one of your ship's abilities.
The player can pick one of six secondary weapons which require charging. These tend to have a tradeoff of power vs accuracy. The ship also has a shield which protects you from one hit, and recharges (but takes a long time).
There are a few minor problems with the game: the combat is maybe a little too close (although you can get a range powerup after the first three levels) and the rotating effect, while nice to look at, is a little distracting. A big problem is the hellspider graphics - the colours make it difficult to tell what gun is what. Also, there's no score, although I suppose it might not make sense to have high scores for a random game.
Those are just minor flaws for a simple and fun game, however. It comes precompiled for Windows and may work on other platforms if you can compile it.