99Seconds is the latest entry in the ‘99’ series of fun little arcade games (previous entries include 99Moves and 99Bullets). The aim and structure of this game is impressively simple. You control a featureless stickman who is free to roam around the screen in any direction. As you play a sequence of lines and shapes will engulf the screen in waves. Some shapes will sweep from one side of the screen to another, some will maneuver in patterns and some will rotate. All you need to do is avoid getting hit as best you can and pick up random power ups where possible extend your play time or increase your score.
You start the game with 99 seconds on the clock. Each time you bump into an obstacle the sequence of shapes will slow down for a second or two giving you the chance to move to safety. This essentially acts as a very small time penalty since although the gameplay grinds to a halt for a short time your 99 seconds will continue to tick away.
Although you begin the game with 99 seconds on the clock this isn’t necessarily how long the game lasts for as you can collect orbs which appear randomly on the screen and each one extends your play time by 9 seconds. If you collect them frequently enough and not get hit too many times it’s possible to survive through all of the waves and end the game in a bonus round where you can potentially up your score with a great deal of extra points. It’s also worth mentioning that the game doesn’t necessarily end when the timer runs out either, however if your timer reaches zero you enter a sort of sudden death mode and the game will end prematurely the next time you take a hit.
That’s literally it. That’s 99Seconds in its entirety. An extremely simple idea which in terms of structure is reminiscent of classic arcade titles such as Asteroids, Space Invaders or Pac Man. Actually, now I’m thinking about it I reckon Pac Man is probably more complicated to grasp than 99Seconds.
This game is very easy to control and the movement is very smooth & responsive. Both the analogue sticks & D-Pad can be used to move your player around and all the face buttons & triggers effectively function as a ‘break’. The break deliberately slows down / pauses the sequence of shapes in order to give you the opportunity to position yourself somewhere more favorable. I found that this had pretty much the same effect as getting hit, however it did help me grab a lot of extra time power ups as it gave me a chance to reach them before they disappear from the screen.
99Seconds features two different game modes. ‘Arcade’ is the main “campaign” for lack of a better expressions. It can be played in single player as well as multiplayer and includes an ending if you survive for long enough. I actually found that playing the arcade mode in multiplayer actually made the game a bit harder since whenever you or one of your friends takes a hit it would cause the obstacles on screen to freeze unexpectedly, and if you can’t react quickly enough it can lead to a domino effect where multiple players would get caught out and everyone starts crashing into things right, left and center.
The second mode is ‘Survival’ and is multiplayer only. It’s essentially a knockout game where there is no time limit and the aim is to be the last player to be hit by an obstacle. As far as I’m aware these rounds last until there is only one player left standing. Rather than the obstacles being a variety of shapes which move around the screen there are spinning turrets which continuously fire bullets that you need to avoid. I’m not 100% certain but I think that the ‘Arcade’ mode actually runs a little bit smoother than ‘Survival’ but it wasn’t a deal breaker. Personally I had more fun playing the Arcade mode anyway since there was an end goal to aim for and I thought the patterns & obstacles were a lot more interesting.
The Arcade mode has three levels of difficulty which effect aspects such as the speed, size and the sequence of the shapes that appear on the screen. I also think I noticed that the power ups usually spawn further away from you on the harder difficulties although I may have just been lucky in the easier modes. Most gamers should be able to beat the easy mode within a couple of sittings once you’ve learned the patterns that you need to deal with, however you may find normal and hard to be a bit more taxing. Whether you get to the end of the game or not won’t spoil the experience for you, since the focus of the game is essentially to rack up as many points as possible and the games themselves are so short (given the arcade motif) you should still be able to enjoy the experience regardless of your level of skill.
The presentation is something I’m a little unsure about. In the epilogue the game describes its own setting as an ‘8-bit universe’. I disagree with referring to this game’s style as 8-bit. Sure, the games graphics are as simple as they come with a static featureless character and obstacles which are nothing more than a sequence of vectors, but this isn’t what springs to my mind when you mention 8-bit. For me 8 bit is about creating as much detail as you can within the limits of dated technology. This on the other hand is a deliberate act of creating as little detail as possible using current contemporary technology which I think is a missed opportunity. I think this game could have benefitted from some special effects and a few different graphical styles. If the makers of this game had attempted something a bit more lavish and varied like the style of Pac Man Championship Edition or Space Invaders Extreme then I would have been a lot more impressed.
The soundtrack includes futuristic sounding synthesized music with trance like elements which helps the game feel a bit more vibrant. There are spoken sound bites which trigger throughout the game which have plenty of reverb over them and make the announcer sound a bit like an android.
I personally thought 99Seconds was a lot of fun to play, and although the game is incredibly short I did find it engaging and addictive enough to want to keep on trying. I would really like to recommend this game and I do to an extent, however I do have one criticism of it which may end up being a deal breaker for a lot of people and that’s the game’s lack of progression. The main mode can be beaten in a matter of minutes and there is no variety outside of the difficulty setting. There are no alternative levels to unlock & no additional game modes outside of Survival which doesn’t amount to very much. It feels as if you’re playing one of those shareware games from the mid 90s where you could download the first stage for free and have to pay a registration fee to be able to play the remaining 19 levels, but you never do and as such you end up playing the demo repeatedly.
It is a very cheap game so I guess you do get what you pay for but I would have happily paid a bit more if the game had been restructured to include multiple stages of increasing difficulty, a bit more variation in the gameplay and maybe a life system to accommodate a longer game. It’s very good for what it is, unfortunately it isn’t very much.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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