I recently got to try out the arcade twin-stick shooter, Black Hole, for the Nintendo Switch. It's a fast-paced game with hectic space battles and interesting stage bosses. So what did I think of my time with Black Hole? Keep reading to find out!
Black Hole is a short and rather simple game. It begins by letting the player select from three ships, each with different starting stats. Once chosen, the player is tossed right into the action, taking on everything from asteroids to space-bugs. Every ten levels there's a boss fight before progressing to the next stage which each have different enemies with new attack patterns. At the end of each level, the player can spend points on a variety of different upgrades before proceeding to the next onslaught.
Despite how simple the premise of Black Hole is, I found the amount of different enemy types very impressive. Black Hole never reveals all of the stage's surprises right away. Instead, it stagers the amount of new enemies you encounter, leaving plenty of surprises to be had as the player progresses. There are only a few new enemy types in each stage, but this is actually a positive as later levels in each stage can become pretty hectic. Indeed, even on easy, the levels could become extremely cluttered, making each dodge a frantic battle between regular obstacles and enemy attack patterns.
Bosses in Black Hole do a good job of breaking up the gameplay and testing what the player has learned in each stage. Some of the bosses were easier than others, but they always packed a punch when they hit you. Luckily Black Hole utilizes a lives system that respawns the player's ship right back into the action. Unluckily, the amount of invincibility frames after each respawn was rather short and enemies track the player as soon as they spawn. This led to a few instances where I would take a few hits before really having a chance to access the situation and dodge attacks. This wasn't normally an issue, but the times when this happened during a boss fight was rather panic-inducing.
The upgrades to your ship are extremely important in keeping you ahead of the game. It never felt like I had to choose one upgrade over another to progress, and so upgrading was very much dependant on each person's playstyle. The upgrades themselves are rather simple, mostly being upgrades to damage, shot speed, and ship speed. It would have been nice to have some upgrades that spiced up the formula a bit more, but shooting a spread of bullets and taking out multiple enemies at the same time was still rather satisfying.
Upgrades are bought with an in-game currency called Stardust Crystals that come from destroying enemies. Other power-ups can also be dropped by defeated enemies, such as a shield boost and a devastating attack boost that increases damage and shot speed greatly. However, this is where my first real problem with Black Hole comes into play. The crystals and the power-ups look the same except that they're different colors. This wouldn't be too big of an issue normally, as there are none that hinder or hurt the player. However, within the aforementioned chaos, it's rather difficult to pay attention to dodging and shooting while also trying to remember what color pickup does what.
In fact, the colors are a greater issue than just not being ready for each similar looking power-up. Each stage has a color it's based on and the background reflects this. For example, stage two has fire-based enemies and so the color scheme is mostly red. This has an unfortunate side effect of blending things together, especially certain enemy shots. Stage four was green and the enemies shot green attacks which would blend into the green background. This is made worse by the fact that the background in each stage is a swirling black hole of that stage's respective color.
The bullets blend into the background and the spinning background has an effect on your eyes after a bit of playing that makes it hard to focus. It's thoughtful that the developers have background options, however there's no way to change these options while in-game. Moreover, exiting the game to the main menu loses the player's progress, so toning the spinning down or even turning it off is something the player is then stuck with their entire playthrough.
Black Hole only has four stages in total, each with ten levels of increasing difficulty. It's a short game, but it's fun to play along side of a friend and compete to get higher scores. However, it's especially good as a casual handheld game when using the Switch on the go. Because it's not terribly complex, I didn't mind picking it up, playing around in it for a bit, and putting it back down again. It runs smoothly in both handheld and console modes, but it seems more well suited to be a portable game to casually play on the go.
A Fun But Average Twin Stick Shooter
Black Hole doesn't do much to innovate, but it was a fun game within the short time it took to beat. its replay value mostly comes in the form of racking up points, but it's also a good game to pick up on the go. However, the simplicity in pick-ups and the background make it difficult to quickly tackle situations in the game's hectic gameplay. This could easily be fixed by letting the player change these options while playing, but instead it's either lose all of your progress or just deal with it.