Flowing Lights PC Review

Flowing Lights failed to hook me at first, but the more I played, the more I grew to appreciate it.

By LG18, Posted 13 May 2021

Flowing Lights wasn’t really what I expected, and it took a while for me to determine exactly what it was. Despite the slow start it managed to substantiate its ideas in the end, making for a fun combination of puzzles and arcade shooting.

Flowing Lights machine gun shot

The game takes a minimalist approach in every manner. A colorful, if a little conceptually bland aesthetic permeates the 200 or so stages. The levels are split up into a series of worlds, but there’s not much to differentiate between each -- at least not aesthetically. Enemies are mostly formless blobs, each attacking the player with variations of the same neon projectiles. Your spaceship can perform a basic boost, a light, continuous machine-gun attack, as well as a longer range, more tactical mode of fire. All pretty standard stuff for a spaceship shooter, a fact that at first, left me wondering what the game was trying to do beyond the obvious.

A brief introduction to the setting is provided at the beginning: You’ve crashed on an alien planet with a stronger gravitational pull than your ship can cope with, so, naturally, it’s up to you to battle through waves of enemies in hopes of a way out. There’s no tangible story to Flowing Lights beyond the above, but the premise does introduce the feature that differentiates the game from being just another shmup. At first, the gameplay failed to hook me. The first several levels a rather weak, and its vague tutorials don’t do a great job of setting up the mechanics. 

The environments of this planet don’t appear much more than liberal use of the push and pull features of a 3D graphics suit, but you’ll soon learn that it’s in the mastery of this exaggerated geometry that brings success. Variations of neon-banded steep hills and bottomless trenches make up each of the game’s mini levels, and you’ll need to use them in conjunction with gravity to make it through. Trying to play this game as a fast-paced spaceship shooter, though, will lead to death very quickly. In fact, this is far more of a puzzle game than it is a shooter.

projectile dodge

Each level should take only under a minute or so to complete, with the objective being to eliminate all enemies in your path to progress past a short checkpoint. This usually isn't as simple as shooting your way through: you'll need to pay attention to your surroundings as well as the range of your own and enemy weapons and plan your movements carefully and accordingly.

Some enemies fire recklessly and aimlessly, while others spray a meandering yet the almost impenetrable stream of projectiles. Some foes relentlessly track your every move, requiring the use of barriers and a well-timed slingshot around a corner.

I haven’t heard of many spaceships that use a slingshot for a weapon, but on this planet, you couldn’t do without it. Using the slingshot weapon slows time slightly and enables you to accurately fire a purple missile with pinpoint accuracy. With a red laser displaying the shot trajectory, the slingshot allows you to use gravity to circle a projectile around a bowl or hit a far-off target with the momentum the shot gains from traveling up and over a hill.

Setting these shots up is always satisfying, and the game rewards accuracy with a simple combo system for consecutive hits. Hitting multiple enemies at once is key to getting through each stage as fast as possible, and forms the basis for the game's ranking system.

Each level is tied to an online leaderboard, and depending on the time it takes you to reach the checkpoint, you’re awarded a character ranking from C to S. The game doesn’t penalize you for taking your time, but for those that want a competitive challenge, the online rankings are a great feature to have.

Bowling pin shot

A skilled player will be able to zip around the hills and steep banks using the boost, and while the slingshot is the most important weapon, learning to use the machine gun in conjunction with the planet's gravity is also a key skill -- especially when going for the higher rankings.

Flowing Lights executes its novel take on the shmup genre successfully for the most part. It provides an engaging and addictive merging of puzzler and shooter, and the addition of online rankings serves to add replayability and longevity. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, what it does provide is a solid arcade experience with a satisfying gameplay loop.
 

Linden Garcia
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher(s): gFaUmNe
Developer(s): gFaUmNe
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Arcade, Shooter
Release Date: 2021-05-07

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