There are plenty of twin-stick shooters available on the Nintendo Switch right now, so they have to offer something a bit unique in order to grab my attention. Null Drifter managed just that though, with its 80s-style aesthetic, simple gameplay mechanics and, of course, low price point, making it the ideal game to pick up for quick blasts here and there.
Null Drifter is an incredibly simple twin-stick shooter, with the player simply avoiding hazards, shooting enemies, and using their dash ability to become temporarily invulnerable in order to avoid incoming attacks or even destroy certain enemies. After you’ve defeated a set amount of foes, you’ll face off against a mini-boss before moving onto the next wave – if you run out of lives, you have to start again. See, I told you it was simple.
You’ll collect cash as you defeat enemies which can be used to purchase permanent upgrades at the end of a run, whilst some enemies will even drop additional boosts such as an extra life, increased damage, or an improvement to your fire-rate. Collecting these upgrades can certainly make your life easier when taking on enemies, especially since they become even tougher in the later levels.
Some of the more permanent upgrades include the likes of increased bullets, better movement speed, and a lower cool-down time on your dash ability, whilst you’ll also be able to purchase temporary boosts such as double coins. The fact that these upgrades are permanent means that the game becomes easier and easier the more you play, though you’ll lose any cash you don’t spend after a run so you’ll need to earn as much as possible if you want to get some of the more expensive upgrades.
There are additional colour palettes to unlock as you complete subsequent runs too, though the 1-bit nature of the game does mean that you shouldn’t really expect to see MASSIVE changes. Still, a few different colours here and there could make the experience a little bit more refreshing over multiple playthroughs, whilst some were actually a whole lot more appealing on the eyes than others. Sure, there are some duds that feel like eyesores more than anything, but at least you get a preview of the aesthetic before you start your run.
You’ll need both quick reactions and adequate dashing skills if you want to survive in Null Drifter, with the game proving to be quite difficult if you’re not on top form. Luckily, the battle for survival is fun, whilst seeing your record improve as you work further through levels feels pretty rewarding. It gets easier as you unlock more upgrades too, so there is a satisfying sense of progress on offer as you spend more cash in the in-game shop.
However, everything about the game is incredibly simple in design, so it can get repetitive fast. There’s not really enough that changes in-between runs to keep yourself overly invested in the experience, with the same sort of enemies inhabiting the same basic arena no matter how far you progress. Sure, new bosses and minions do get introduced after a few runs, but they don’t really bring a whole lot to the mix that completely spices up the gameplay. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but you’ll see everything that Null Drifter really has to offer in the first thirty-minutes or so of playing.
At least the game is cheap though, with it coming in at under £5 – you definitely won’t feel short-changed by what it offers, even if you do only get a couple of hours playtime out of it. It’s also ideal for the Nintendo Switch thanks to the portability of the console, with Null Drifter ideal for quick pick up and play sessions when you’ve got five minutes spare here and there.
Null Drifter offers a simple and fun twin-stick shooting experience, though that simplicity may not be for everyone. You’ll see everything it has to offer quite quickly, with the gameplay growing a little bit repetitive after an hour or so play.
Is this a bad thing? Not really. Null Drifter is one of those games that ideal for quick pick up and play sessions and progressing that bit further during each run can feel pretty rewarding, even if you are doing a lot of the same things over and over again. It also just so happens to be pretty cheap, which is always a BIG plus in my book.
Developer: Panda Indie Studio
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC