The comeback of the simple space shooter isn't exactly a new trend.
Sure, we're light years away from the original Galaga. In part, that's because in console games that later became apps, like Geometry Wars, a spaceship shooting at endless screens of enemies is well-worn territory.
It takes a great game, then, to make a statement in this genre. Wave - Against Every Beat! is exactly that game, and the statement it makes suggests there's a lot more to explore in what seemed like a tired concept.
To get a few things out of the way, Wave - Against Every Beat! has the same neon-hued look of many games of this new generation of shooters. It looks great here, too, but the novelty of how quick and flashy everything looks when it's reduced to neon geometric shapes is wearing thin.
Instead, what immediately catches the eye in Wave - Against Every Beat! is how difficult it is. Even on the first level, staying alive on the easier of the game's two difficulty levels feels like a tremendous triumph. That's even with numerous power-ups scattered through the level that provide better guns and extra lives! But Wave also possesses a few new tricks and power-ups that help it stand out from even the newer Geometry Wars. The first of these elements is a bonus system activated by red and green portals.
Occasionally, the game will open up two circular portals that you can choose to fly your ship through. Doing so starts one of two bonus modes. Both assist in helping you to reach the level's mandated goals, and also serve to break up the constant barrage of enemies flying at you for a few seconds.
The second gameplay wrinkle that seems perfect for this sort of game occurs after you've lost all your lives. Usually, you'd just have to restart the level you were previously playing, and shake off your defeat. In Wave, you're given a sudden-death opportunity. Stay alive for 30 seconds while a flood of saws fall from the top of the screen, and you get to keep playing. It's weird and different, and very cool.
Sure, the core gameplay of Wave - Against Every Beat! is essentially unchanged from when the genre emerged decades ago, but the tweaks and additions here make this a great pickup for those who crave another space-traveling shooter in their life.