Voxatron Alpha

Block that attack!So, here I’ve been giving so much play to the Lexaloffle mini-games that were included as a bonus with the latest Humble bundle (or “debut”) that I haven’t got around to playing the one game that it was supposedly about. Just as well: for all that the bonus items are described as “mini”, the Voxatron alpha is a much shorter experience. It’s essentially a Robotron-like shooter in 3D, with jumping added. But it’s the sort of Robotron-like shooter with awkward controls that link movement direction to firing direction more than I’d like. That is, you can move in a different direction than you’re shooting, but you have to be facing a direction to start shooting that way, and that gets in the way of the classic circle-and-shoot-inward approach. Well, it’s still an alpha, I suppose. One can hope that it changes.

Which brings us to the weird fact that the alpha of this game was included — indeed, was the focus of — a Humble Bundle that people were expected to pay money for. I guess that’s the Minecraft influence. After all, it’s hard to imagine this game existing without Minecraft paving the way. Its chief appeal is in the aesthetic of blocky voxels. Even the text at the top of the screen showing your score and current weapon and so forth is made of voxels. It has an effect reminiscent of claymation, due to both the deliberate crudity and the way that the voxel grid quantizes movement. It’s strange how voxel tech seems to have passed directly from futuristic to retro without passing through the present.

But I suppose that’s only true of consipcuous voxels. Inconspicuous voxels are out there, in games with destructible environments. So too is it here: the environment is fully destructible. Every shot that doesn’t hit a monster is liable to knock a chunk out of a wall or something. There’s one boss that fires a sort of sweeping laser beam (which looks extremely strange made of solid blocks) that can only be effectively avoided by hiding behind cover, but it also eats away at your cover. Some of the monsters can even be tricked into smashing things that you want smashed, such as a pillar with goodies on top. I’d like to see more of that sort of thing in the final version, although I’m not really sure what more can be done.