Consistent with his ever-zany back catalogue of energetic and polychromatic games, Tom Sennett’s latest project is a joy to behold. Boasting familiar child-like animations and retro-fashioned melodies, Ultralight Beam [Itch page] is an eruption of garish colours and arena-based points accumulation pandemonium, forcefully merged with pseudo self-help advice. It’s really rather wonderful. Brendan might have pointed out the free, low-res, ad-supported version but it’s sold in a fancier form too.
“GET STARS, AVOID MONSTERS,” reads a straightforward predication as you’re thrust into the game’s first neon-bleached playground. You steer a small rocket ship trailing beams of rainbow fumes towards a collection of stars, gathering them as you go, and avoiding said monsters in order to survive. You rack up points with every successfully linked sequence; you lose lives with every enemy collision.
“LIVE YOUR DREAMS,” cries the next level’s backdrop. “INCLUDE EVERYONE” and “FLIRT WITH THE BARTENDER” follow, but you’re too busy weaving around the ever-increasing number of hostile hordes – a burgeoning army of crudely outlined aliens – to pay the suggestions any mind.
Yet more tidbits of advice scream from the backdrop as you slalom between stars, swirling and circling, forming abstract shapes and grabbing points and blasting fiercefully into the next round in turn. You wince as later levels get brighter and flashier, and the background electric guitar riffs and zaps and buzzes and peow-peows get louder and faster. It’s messy, it’s chaotic. It’s this:
And then I died and was given 454 as my final score – at which point I couldn’t make out what was going on beyond a thousand garish colours and a gang of angry monsters – and I needed a lie down.