More than a hair off the mark

Nightbird Trigger X, the new puzzle/shooter hybrid from COLOPL Inc. had potential for greatness locked in its sights. But in the end, a forced social element and a few perplexing monetization calls caused it to miss its target.

Trapped behind the concrete walls of a future metropolis, our cannon wielding anti-hero must use expert timing and a touch of luck to shatter the core of each room’s security system while hypnotic patterns of living neon light shield it from incoming fire, giving up only fleeting chances for a clear shot; and all the while, under the relentless ticking of a time-bomb set to blow. Now, I’m not totally clear on just why our man in white was breaking and entering in the first place (the intro video was heavy on action but light on info), but thankfully the set-up doesn’t matter too much with this one.

And at least the gameplay is fairly straightforward. Each room is set up pretty much the same way. On an elevated platform on the left side of the screen stands our player character. In the middle of the screen we have a psychedelic swarm of primary shapes, simple machines, particles, and light that weaves around the playfield to and fro, blocking the player’s laser beams from hitting the previously mentioned core that rests on the far right of the screen and acts as a doorway to the next room.

In order to make progress, the player has to closely watch the light show’s pattern in order to fire a shot through a gap in the defenses and hit the security core head on. If you don’t manage to hit the final core before the timer runs out, the building you’ve been looting explodes and it’s game over. For most of the game you’re allowed to fire as many shots as you need to before the timer reaches zero (although if you hit the core with your first shot, you’re given a one second time bonus), but every so often the developers throw a level at you that requires you to reach the end while using a limited amount of ammo.

Nightbird Trigger X

The graphics are a high point for Nightbird Trigger X. The main character looks kind of like the silhouette of Mega Man X decked out in one of Strider Hiryu’s scarves, and from the opening video to the actual in-game graphics, the art assets are quality (although some backgrounds do repeat), with the special effects offering the eyes a healthy dose of technologically advanced trippiness. A great deal of care was put into the visuals, and it shows.

The soundtrack isn’t as impressive as the visuals, unfortunately. Aside from the end-of-level fanfare, nothing here is very memorable. It sounds like it belongs on a compilation tape of generic shoot-em-up music from the 90s. It all blends together over time.

The beginning levels are pretty easy. You can actually button mash your way through a good portion of the available game. (And that may be fine. Challenge is always a “your mileage may vary” kind of deal.) The translation is also a bit shoddy. But my biggest complaints are with the forced social aspects and the high price of in-app purchases. Once you clear the first world, the only way to progress further in the game is to sign up three of your friends to play it. I came here to game. Not to sell Amway. If a game is compelling, a player will automatically tell his friends about it. No need to hold additional content hostage behind a social wall.

Nightbird Trigger X

I’d argue that doing so actually lessens the chance that a player will have a favorable opinion of said game. Let the social experience happen naturally, folks. Honestly, if those were the game’s only faults it might be salvageable, but the forced social experience also comes with a high price tag for in-app purchases, with groups of three throwaway consumables (like bombs that slow down time and lasers that detect gaps) going for $1.99 a pop. That’s the price of an entire game.

I can’t really recommend Nightbird Trigger X. While it has a nice concept and looks pretty fantastic, the developers seemingly chose to prioritize social and monetization schemes over giving players a complete gameplay experience. It’s like one person made a decent game, and another person came in, stripped the game down, and attempted to sell it off for parts. Not sure what they were aiming for here, but it was definitely a miss.