What was I thinking when I grabbed a copy of Barrier X, from Hypetrain Digital? Was I mislead in thinking this would protect my chapped lips or perhaps to stop the slugs getting into the kitchen on a rainy day? Something I didn’t consider was the affirmation that my reflexes aren’t what I thought they were, and that videogames can melt your face.
As much as I’d like to say I can catch a fly with chopsticks or stop a rocket with my nuts, I’m just 80% human, just like you, and there’s only so much I can do. Play games for a living (ish)? Check. Cry milk? Check. Be able to react with cat-like instincts and avoid colliding with numerous objects i.e. buildings on command? Nope. Barrier X is like Wipeout after mixing speed with Lucozade. I don’t know if that will actually have such an effect, but if it gives an indication that Barrier X is fast, I’m running with it.
You can’t tell me that a cover on the Nintendo eShop won’t coax you into trying out a game. The marketplace is so flooded that without people like me hunting for decent titles, you have to take that chance and give something a try. At the price I, Barrier X was a no-brainer. How can I categorise the game? The opening title captures it perfectly:
Super Fast Avoid-‘Em-UpBarrier X title screen
Barrier X: This One Goes To Ludicrous Speed
I’d agree with that as you need lightning reactions to get anywhere in the game. From the opening level (seven of them, each represented by the letter in Barrier), it’s clear what to expect from this game: failure.
All you have to do is survive for 30 seconds without crashing and you can then advance onto the next level. For an opening level, surely it’s going to ease you in nicely? No chance. For the first 20 or so attempts, I wasn’t lasting longer than 12 seconds. Art imitating life? But it’s what you do with those seconds, surely? Nope. There’s no progress made unless you make it to the next stage.
Forget power-ups, shortcuts or ‘if I die X number of times, the game will throw me a lifeline and change it to easy setting‘. Doesn’t exist. This game is hardcore and I have to say is the biggest reason why I can’t see this one out in its entirety. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly addictive. Much like Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo, it has that ‘just one more go’ but SMSBST has that replayability; if you suck, you can try another mode or grind a little more and unlock a power-up or ship that suits your preferred style of play.
No Fluffy Dice Or Go Faster Stripes
Barrier X is simply too hard for me to return to it. It’s definitely a game that I would fire up when guests are around as it puts difficulty in perspective on all the other games. Games such as Valfaris no longer feel so hard.
For a small budget title, the presentation is great – from the main title sequence to the sheer velocity of travelling on the tracks, headfirst into a towering monolith, it’s overall a tidy package. Not my listening preference outside of gaming, but the soundtrack is great. It reminds me of the startup sequences on the Amiga (sigh, there I go…) – you know the ones; ‘This game was released by…’ oh, hold on a minute, they’re not official releases? CUT!
Aside from the gameplay, there’s nothing else on offer. There’s the option to turn the intro on or off, which is effectively a switch to tell you at the beginning of each level not to crash, ‘options’ is the volume, and the final section is choice to remap the controls if you don’t like the current ones. The controls, by the way, are simple; move left or right to avoid hazards, A button to fire and B button to unblock. To tell the truth, I didn’t get far enough to evaluate or the areas of the game, which is a bit of a rarity for me.
Though Barrier X is ridiculously hard, it’s actually fun. I wouldn’t say that it fired me up each time I crashed, just craftily seduced me into having one more go. Crash. One more go. One more go. However, there’s only so much you can do and even though this is clearly a competitive game based on the survival elements: how long can you go? there isn’t an online leaderboard to show off – that I witnessed. Not that I would use it as I really am not very good at this.
I would anticipate bursts of 10-20 minutes worth of play at a time. While it doesn’t get as frustrating as much as you’d think, it’s the lack of any sort of progression that is off-putting. Levels are endless, which is clear, but other than earning a time that’s just enough to unlock the next stage, there’s nothing else. No new vehicles or statistics, but in Barrier X’s defence, that would eat away into the simplicity of the game, and that is one of the stronger points.
For a game to test your reaction times, and something a little different than strolling through the UCA, or delving deeper into Skellige, Barrier X is a quickly accessibly game where everything is on the surface, with no underlying layers to uncover. But just as easy as it is to pick up, it’s equally quick to bail out due to the high level of difficulty. Though think about doing a speed run on this and finishing all the levels? Some have done this already, the nutters.