Just what we need, another twin stick shooter! Am I right or am I right? The Xbox One store is absolutely littered with these titles, ranging from the good (Tachyon Project) to the not so good (Crimsonland). In a genre that’s as over saturated as this, a new iteration needs to truly stand out. It needs interesting mechanics, solid and intriguing gameplay, heaps of replay value and depth, and so on and so forth. Does Circuit Breakers manage to achieve these results? Hell freakin no! The official description for the game states that you can “shoot, explode, and explore” as though this was unique to the game and not some standard aspect that’s present in just about any other twin stick shooter on the market. It’s like a racing game housing “drive, brake, reverse” in its description, and then expecting some magical cookie as though it’s a defining function. Nevertheless, let’s get stuck in.
The game sees you and a group of friends (local or online) making your way through room after room as you blast wave after wave of enemy robots. The new twist in the old snake is that instead of nabbing weapon pickups, you’ll be picking up crystals that will power your weapon, effectively making it more deadly. Spray too much of your ammo and you will suffer the opposite effect, leaving you vulnerable and wide open to attack with no defence other than a (very) weak pistol. On the face of it, it’s a neat addition and a valiant effort to try and inject new life into a tired game type, but it’s not enough to carry the entire experience through.
On top of that, the vast amount of enemies that appear on the screen at any given time, means that you’re pretty much always going to be stocking up on power regardless. It would have been nice to see this system leaning on more structure, forcing you to carefully deduct whether the risk is worth the reward. As it stands, you’re just constantly drowning in so many enemies that it ultimately feels like any other bog-standard twin-stick shooter. It almost makes the very feature feel lost in translation, as I found I was paying no attention at all to it in favour of dancing around the army of robots. Using your shield will chip away at your energy, but again, it’s far too easy to nab crystals and rain bullets instead.
Another downside is that the game only fires in eight directions, which is an annoyance when we’re in 2017 with analogs. This may seem like a minor thing to moan about, but when you’re trying to line up a shot to trigger an explosive across the map only to narrowly miss it, it becomes irritating. The same can be said when you’re trying to aim at specific enemies, which is tedious to say the least. Speaking of enemies, there’s only a few variations of them. Even then they just tend to be a re-skinned version of their counterparts. It’s a shame really because on top of the issues already mentioned, a decent twin stick shooter should at least dish out a diverse selection of foes to blast at.
What I will say about Circuit Breakers is that it’s a pretty tough game, despite the overly generous drop rate. You’ll need to clear a room of enemies before the next room opens up, to which you will face off against a boss battle for every several rooms cleared. There’s no sense of tactical play within, seeing as rooms just seem to let you through when they decide you’ve killed enough robots. No death count, no timer, nothing. It’s all just luck, and if there is a system in place it’s far too ignorant to identify. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s no story to be found in Circuit Breakers, but given that the genre doesn’t typically rely on plot, that’s something I’m willing to forgive.
Outside of the main mode, you can enjoy the score mode. Oddly enough I found this piece of side content to be more welcoming than the core mode, being that it at least has a sense of progression. The aim of this mode is to gain a high score with each player housing their own challenge card, such as number of kills and other standard offerings. These come on top of set challenges too. Is this game worth picking up for this mode alone? Not at all. You see this mode only slightly stands out in comparison to the daunting core mode, something that has about as much depth as a toddlers paddling pool. The only interesting feature I could pick up on outside of the weapon mechanics was the implementation of modifiers, which (again) are bog standard and take forever to earn.
Visually, the game does well at providing enough variation and the aesthetic does alter when you progress enough. It’s certainly a game that’s best played with friends, and I’ll admit that it’s fun when you’re first getting into the swing of things. With that said, it’s not long before the ugly truth rears its head and showcases the fact that this is one of the weakest twin stick shooters available on the Xbox One. The lack of solid progression, the lack of a meaningful game mode, the lack of enemy variation, and the inconsistent gameplay, collectively makes this a game for the bargain bin.
When a vast sea of twin stick shooters already reside on the Xbox One store, stating that Circuit Breakers is one of the weakest titles of the lot, is saying something. Despite being fun at first and offering up some decent visuals, it’s not long before the novelty wears thin. Circuit Breakers doesn’t house any interesting features outside of the weapon mechanic, and even that’s pretty sub-par. The eight directional firepower is another downside, seeing as it indirectly makes shooting less precise. Throw in the fact that there’s no sense of progression and inconsistent gameplay, and you’ve every reason to avoid this like the plague. Seriously, this is a game for those that thoroughly love the genre. If you’re looking for a good twin stick shooter, look elsewhere, you’re hardly stuck for choice.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.