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Act: Chromadrome [by Alpha 72 Games]

Game Review: Chromadrome
Release: June 23, 2004
Genre: Action
Developer: Alpha 72 Games
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, DirectX 8+, 32MB OpenGL video card, mouse, 800Mhz computer, 128 MB RAM, a working brain
Players: 1-2 (Simultaneous)
Price: $14.95
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Looking at the screen shots of Chromadrome I was really excited about giving the game a try. The screen-shots made the game look to be a paced racer along the lines of Super Mario cart (or Super Worms for the old-time Indie fan), especially the split-screen shot that showed two racers on the same screen. Upon playing the game though I found my initial screen-shot based perception of the game to be incorrect.

Not to say that I was incorrect in being excited, in fact just the opposite is true. The exciting action in the game is actually closer to the classic Stun Runner for those who had a chance to play that game. However, even a description that compares this game to that one is really quite poor at defining the game.

I think of Chromadrome as a racer/shooter mix. It definitely has a high speed intense aspect, but the number of enemies that you need to blast out of your way while completing the race courses lends the game to also feel a bit like an overhead shooter such as the classic Raiden series of games. At first this may seem a frightening prospect for gamers as both Racing games and shooters require very quick reflexes and a strong memory in order for you to be successful at them, and while this is still quite true in Chromadrome the ability to set the game's speed should make it very accessible for all gamers.

So what is the game really all about? In Chromadrome we are treated to the second game revolving around the Chromates. These little creatures from another dimension are really just round balls that rather resemble chrome balls. In Chromentum, the first of the Chromate games, the balls were used in a series of puzzles. However, the Chromates were just testing our ability by allowing us to complete the Chromentum puzzles. Now with those puzzles completed, our ability to handle precision at high speeds is also being tested.

Chromadrome provides that test in several different modes of play. Each mode has at its heart a series of races that you need to complete though the modes are each quite unique, from the Arcade mode that requires you to pass specific levels before moving on to the Academy where you can earn bronze, silver or if you are capable, gold stars on races that vary each time you play them in basic layout. The races themselves reminded me of a luge in that they only have very minor turns in them.  Chromadrome race tracks are not at all like Grand Prix car-racing tracks, and that really isn't a bad thing. In addition, due to a seemingly endless line o speedups that you encounter, the longer the race is, the faster that your Chromate hurdles itself down the track making the game pick up more and more intensity every second that you play.

Of course the tracks aren't free of obstacles. There are a series of items that you must transverse in order to get to the finish line in one piece. The first is the track itself. While the track is straight, it doesn't provide much in the way of safety bumpers to keep you from hurdling yourself off the track and into outer space.  There are also holes all through track that must be avoided. In addition to the less than safe road that you are taking, there are obstacles on the road as well. Silver and gold colored chromates seem to be scattered all about. The silver chromates will slow you down if you run into them. For this reason it is important to try and clear your path of them by firing down the road with your laser to knock them off of the track. On the opposite spectrum from the silver chromates are the gold chromates. It is typically helpful for you to run into them as they are scattered in chains on the track. Hitting the chain will change you to the last chromate in the chain, accelerating you while doing so.

As difficult as it can be to navigate the chromates, it is compounded by some of the track's dynamics. Loops and jumps are fairly common and require practice to overcome. They are augmented by corkscrew spirals and spiral jumps that will spin the screen before your very eyes. Again while there is quite a bit of difference between the two games, those who have played stun runner extensively should feel right at home and be loving every minute of the high-speed adventure.

There are other obstacles you'll meet along the way such as giant chromates, fire and springs, but I'll leave that to you to discover. Chromadrome provides an exciting game that I feel most gamers should give a serious try as there are so many features and modes of play that it is hard to properly describe them all. One thing I can state clearly is that it is one of the more fun racing games I've played, and certainly puts a twist all its own on the tired racing genre that make it more than worthy of your time and an absolute STEAL at $14.95.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics in the game are really spectacular. There are multiple lighting effects that help to give the chromates their very metallic look to go along with backgrounds that are so active that I believe many people will have to turn off some of the graphic effects so as to not become overwhelmed by them.

Sound: 7/10
Probably the only area of the game that could really use an improvement is the sound.  The developer has made it possible for you to load your own music and that is a suggested step for those looking for a rocking soundtrack.  The sound effects work fairly well though, as the Chromates let you know when you've crashed through fire again.

Game Play: 10/10
Chromadrome is really easy to pick up and play. Players will find using the mouse to control their chromate to be nearly second nature. Though there is definitely a sense of the chromate falling off a bit too easily when it comes near the edge, it is something that is easily mastered after playing a few games. Perhaps most interesting was the two player mode where each player is able to control their own chromate by plugging in two mice to the computer. This is an interesting move to make as I assume that not everyone has two mice.

Concept 9/10
Had it just been a typical racing game it wouldn't get these points, but honestly this is a very different take on the racing genre that actually more squarely puts this game in what I would call the 'action' category.  Definitely a bit different than other games, which makes it a little harder to peg as either an action or a sports/racing game.

Value 10/10
At $14.95 you will definitely get MUCH more than your money out of this one.  A really interesting and cool feature in the game is the statistics page that shows you the value you get for your money!  This page will show you how much you've paid per play and how much you've paid per hour in addition to how much you've played and statistics from each of the modes of play.  I really liked this little addition as a numbers oriented guy and think it would be cool to see such a feature in other games.

Fun 10/10
This is one of those games that other people will want a chance to play if they watch you play as the stunts you seemingly pull off while playing are nearly as exciting to see as they are to do.  Chromadrome is full of adrenaline rushing excitement that will keep you glued to your screen.  If you have someone to play with then another challenge is awaiting as you both race through tracks, each using your own mouse as the game lets you use two USB mice!

Overall 9/10
A nearly perfect game that all players should check out.  There really isn't much more you could hope for in such a game.  Chromadrome stands out clearly as one of the best indie titles this year and I pity the fool who doesn't pick up their own mind-numbing copy!
Added: August 14th 2004
Reviewer: Russell Carroll
Hits: 7573
Language: english


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