SYNSO & Squid Harder

Before this blog went on two-year hiatus (sorry about that), I had discussed several shooting games, in rather explicit detail, noting every nuance of their scoring systems, and power-ups. I had also previously reviewed the then unknown predecessor to the PS4 indie darling, OctoDad. As we all know, both shmups and cephalopods alike are pivotal cornerstone gaming conventions. That's why, many years ago, a British programmer by the name of Robert "OddBob" Fearon beat Young Horses to the punch in regards to tentacled-protagonists, going even farther, and combing these classic themes into one, giving the world SYNSO...

SYNSO - Squid Harder (PC)
Developed & Published by: Bag Full of Wrong Videogames
Released: May 19, 2009 (?)

SYNSO is a trilogy, consisting of the original SYNSO, followed by the sequel, Squid Harder, and finally, an updated revision of the original, dubbed SYNSO:CE. Short for "Squid Yes! Not so Octopus", the SYNSO games belong to a sub-genre more commonly known as an arena-shooter, and less-commonly known as a "twin-stick shooter", a name that is unsuitable for the games, as they lack a second stick.

And there-in lies the brilliance of SYNSO's design, unlike many arena-shmups, which allow free directional aiming, SYNSO, the aptly named hero of SYNSO, can only fire in the direction of his movement. This is an excellent design choice, because it greatly emphasizes the importance of zoning and herding, and makes for a much more difficult (and therefore rewarding) experience.

 The original SYNSO was a nine-minute endurance run; a gauntlet of robots, and chattering heads, and other weird shit, proudly presented with that faux-16-bit aesthetic that was all-the-rage in 2009. You are awarded bonuses based on the amount of time you are able to persistently exist (likely not long), and points are awarded for picking up randomly generated gems, as well as shooting down enemies, resulting in retina-detaching explosions of, light, color, sound, and most of all, UI, all the while strange robotic voices whisper cryptic criticisms of the gaming industry.

It's a weird fucking game.

Squid Harder does away with the gems, and replaces the nine-minute survival mode, with four unique stages, each featuring their own enemy wave-patterns, each lasting a set length of time, one, two, three, and four minutes, respectivley, adding up to a total of ten minutes you must learn to master. Stages can be conquered in any order, a la MegaMan, and each can be replayed as often as you wish.

To compensate for  the more forgiving time-limit, Squid incorporates a new rank-system, which subtly affects gameplay, encouraging you to replay the game, conquering each stage in a different order.. Although the effects the rank have are not as tangible as in most shooters, each rank rewards you a clever title. DoDonPachi never did that, probably because the guys at CAVE are a bunch of "Pasty Crowners"


And as you can tell, Squid Harder eschews it's predecessors presentation, for something a little more... neo-retro. The game's art-design brings to mind Atari, as if projected through a holographic display, an interesting look, no doubt.

Seizure Warning: If you suffer from epileptic symptoms, watch this anyway, because it's worth it.

SYNSO:SQUID HARDER & SYNSO:CE can be purchased here.

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