Disclaimer: Sublevel Zero Redux was provided to by a PR company for the purposes of a review upon my request. This will not affect the review in any way, and is being explained for the purposes of transparency with our audience.
Sublevel Zero Redux is set in a universe in which reality is falling apart. Wormholes are causing mayhem and the human race are scattered around the universe. Players take control of a small ship and have to make their way through a perilous underground facility looking for ancient artifacts picking up catalogs that flesh out the lore as they go along. There are six sub levels in total full of enemies and traps as well as weapon and ship upgrades however the game features perma-death so one slip up can mean disaster.
Sublevel Zero Redux is a rogue like first person shooter that offers six degrees-of-freedom meaning players can twist, flip and spin in any direction at any time in order to stay alive. The levels and loot drops are procedurally generated which means that each time you are killed and start over, the layout of the map and enemies will change. This is useful being that perma-death means you will see A LOT of the first few sub-levels while you get used to the controls. The controls are tight and the game runs smoother than butter which at first results in a lot of wall bumping, but before long, you will find yourself flying around tight corridors with ease. There is no ‘right way up’ in Sublevel Zero Redux which can be a little disorienting at first, especially for those with motion sickness, but it quickly becomes second nature. The game features a range of weaponry in order to survive as well as a simplistic crafting system to make weapons and the ship stronger. Players have a primary weapon system which fires bullets, plasma or energy depending on the weapon equipped as well as a secondary weapon which has a range of rockets. The ship itself can also be upgraded with various hulls and engines to be found or created along the way. The action is fast paced with enemies of different types all trying to kill you in a variety of colourful ways. To start with, the enemy ships tend to all look the same but before long, differences can be seen between ships that will ram, snipe or rapid fire against you.
Each level has a safe start zone before opening up to a labyrinth of tunnels and passages with the aim being to reach the reactor and the end of each level and destroy it. The reactors will defend themselves and have guards to boot making the final battle for each level a tense free for all for survival. Treasure chests are also available along the way to help the player but some are booby trapped and come with a wave of enemies to kill before claiming the spoils. With ammo and health being so sparse, the decision to open a chest or leave it in fear of annihilation make for some difficult choices. As mentioned before, the game has a perma-death feature which means game over if your health reaches zero and goodbye to all of the hard earned upgrades and currency found along the way. Health kits are available throughout but only give back a small portion of health and over a period of time meaning it’s not as easy as running away, using a med-kit and jumping back in to the fray. This makes every decision important and really makes you think about the next move.
Sublevel Zero Redux has a range of difficulty settings for seasoned players or those new to the genre, like me, to make the game a bit easier or more challenging for seasoned gamers. I tried each difficulty I didn’t notice a great deal of change in the enemies but ammo, health and weapon drops are MUCH sparser on the harder difficulty settings making the whole experience a lot more tense as every bullet counts! I admit, I was unable to get very far on the harder difficulty setting but managed to complete the game on easy and normal, but this was not an easy ride on either setting.
Sublevel Zero Redux is very pretty to look at, simultaneously looking retro and pixellated but also somehow futuristic. The levels themselves don’t have a great deal of range, mainly just hallways of various metallic shades and the odd cave like system to explore but the lighting brings it to life with each area having an array of colours. Enemies explode in glorious pixellated balls of fire and the lights give areas a glow of pinks, blues and greens that feel almost neon at times. The game has a VR mode which I unfortunately was unable to try but I get the feeling that the game will shine as a VR title.
Sublevel Zero Redux does have a few flaws along the way, the first being the map system. The map is colour coded and opens up as you explore the levels but due to having no ‘right way up’, I found that a lot of the time, I had no clue which way my ship was facing or where I needed to go. The map controls are also a little odd, they are controlled in the same way in which the ship is controlled which felt unnecessarily complicated. Another issues for me was the length, admittedly I did not manage to finish the game on the hardest difficulty but I still felt that the 6 total levels is a little short on the whole. A few more levels and perhaps a little more depth to the story would have made the whole experience feel more rounded.
Sublevel Zero Redux is a slick shooter that runs silky smooth and has a tight control system. The enemies are tough and varied and more planning is needed than in most shooters although the perma-death feature will not appeal to everyone. If you are looking for a title to fill the void left by Decent and Forsaken, SZR is the game to play.
Sublevel Zero Redux is a slick shooter that is as rewarding as it is challenging throughout it’s short campaign although the pera-death feature will not appeal to everyone.