When it comes to strange franchises, the .io games are probably pretty high up there. A mixture of clones and copies, iterations and reimaginings with no single developer controlling the ideas or outputs. It is, in short, a big ol’ messy hodgepodge of stuff.
And diep.io fits into that weird sludge of games. It’s a twin stick shooter twist on the concept, with a little more heritage to it than most of the other games that bear the .io moniker. And it sort of works, albeit not as well as the likes of slither.io and agar.io. But there’s still a lot to enjoy here, thanks to a more in-depth progression system, solid controls, and simple gameplay that means anyone can have a crack at being the best podgy blue tank that ever shot bullets at stuff.
The game takes place on a simple background and sees you driving a tank around. You’ve got a stick on the left of the screen to control your movement and one on the right to control the direction you’re shooting in. The world is populated with shapes. Blasting these to pieces gives you extra XP that you can spend on toughening up your tank. Every so often you’ll be able to choose a new accoutrement for your weapon as well.
The twist is there are other players moving around the world as well, trying to shoot the same shapes as you, and if you’re unlucky, turning their attention on you. Survive for as long as you can, work your way up the leaderboard, and shoot everything to bits.
Games like this live and die on their central compulsion loop. They need players to populate the levels, otherwise you’re just wandering around on your own shooting things that never shoot back. And to do that, they need to make sure people get hooked. But the core gameplay here isn’t quite sharp enough to keep you locked in for a good length of time. There is fun to be had here, don’t get me wrong, and for the first few run throughs you’ll be playing with a smile on your face.
It’s just that the game runs out of steam after a while. In the early stages it’s not particularly fast, and while the controls are pretty good, there’s none of the speedy arcade fizz and bubble of slither to keep you coming back for more.
There’s certainly a good idea here, and it’s put together remarkably well. What it lacks is that little bit of extra punch, that special burst of annoyance that kicks at you when you fail and makes you desperate to jump back in and show the rest of the world that you’re much more than your last failure. If anything the game could do with more players per level. Quite often you’re just floating through, shooting at inanimate shapes and waiting for something more exciting to turn up and try and kill you.
And when something does turn up and kill you, it’s usually far more powerful than you, and you don’t really stand a chance. With a few tweaks here and there diep.io could be a brilliant addition to the mobile gaming canon, but as it stands it’s lacking in a few key departments that just hold it back from greatness.