The Network is a worthy effort, but retro-style shooters have been done better elsewhere
The Network. Granted, it’s not a very enticing name, but look beyond that and you’ll find a game that, despite being quite simple at its heart, is oddly addicting in short bursts. The Network is very similar to Geometry Wars, although the former could be classed as the poor man’s latter, since none of the unique style or mixture of fast paced gameplay is quite on offer here. However, those looking for a retro shooter may find some enjoyment with The Network.
The controls consist of the WASD keys and the mouse, so it’s quite easy to just pick up and play. You control a circle and you must travel around, picking up triangles which can then be fired at the large squares that occupy the map space. Once all of these squares have been destroyed then you can advance to the next level. Of course, it never really remains that simple, with the difficulty ramping up each time. It could be indestructible enemies firing their bullets at you or simply just too many of them homing in at you at once. You should be prepared to fail quite a lot of the time, because it can get tricky very fast. There are even some odd levels thrown in that require you to use your brain that are actually quite interesting (there’s one where there’s an 8 in the background that I thought was pretty neat) and add some variety to the standard gameplay that takes up the majority of the game.
The developers have made an attempt to try and contextualise the gameplay of The Network into some sort of narrative, but that’s really by the by and you can happily skip this over with ease. It would be have been much more appreciated if they’d included greater documentation; although brief instructions are given at the start of each level, a lot of the time it’s simply up to you to just guess the gameplay – whether that is figuring out if something is an enemy or if you should be collecting them. It’s frustrating for a while, but that annoyance doesn’t really last long as it’s quite easy to just pick up the gist of things as you go along.
Graphically the game aims for a retro style, consisting of gridline backgrounds and simple, geometric shapes making up the various components. A bit more colour would have certainly been appreciated, since a lot of the time the screen is just made up of white and greys which can make for dull viewing. It’s easy to make comparisons, but when you consider the frantic and wonderfully colourful Geometry Wars then The Network looks utterly bland in comparison. A bit more spice in the design department really could have gone a long way.
The Network is a worthwhile effort from an indie developer, but when it comes down to whether or not you should be laying down money for it the answer is probably, and sadly, not. Although there are some neat ideas on offer, and it’s not as if it does much wrong, it just doesn’t offer anything superior to what you can find in Geometry Wars. That sounds horribly dismissive, but it’ll never leave the back of your mind if you’ve played it in the past. Simply put, The Network is fun in short bursts, but doesn’t cover any new ground or improve upon existing games.