Review: Scintillatron 4096

Few things in gaming are more beautiful than a Vita OLED alive with exploding particles and pixels, and Scintillatron 4096 crams them in larges numbers onto the small screen. With a fiendish score mechanic to keep us playing, this is right up there with TxK and Son of Scoregasm when it comes to laying out a joyous shooting experience, not bad at all for kFunction's first release.

The object of this twin-stick shooter is simple, each level has two colours of sub-atomic particle targets. Take them out in colour order with speed and accuracy, and your score will be awesome. Make a mistake or mistime a shot and your multiplier resets, while random blasting won't get you very high up the online score chart at all.

Peering down the game's well-like aperture, the action takes place on a flat plane, with your tiny vessel charging around trying to get the right angle to take the next shot. Initially, you'll try to get close to each target for an easy kill, but as the level gets busier, that becomes tougher.

Each wave is short, and the subsequent levels throw in extra challenges like hunting or sniping drones, and if you spend too long struggling for those last hits, things get even nastier. Managing the main challenge while dodging the obstacles creates a near perfect risk-and-reward challenge.  Do you take a long shot to knock out the last yellow and risk blowing your multiplier, or do you duck and dive through the carnage to get closer for a safer shot.

That's compounded by some colour objects sitting more or less on top of each other, and you have to move around to encourage them to separate or get an attractor or repeller power-up to send them in different directions, all while under fire or pressure to finish that level.

Such is the focus on the action, it was only looking at the screenshots on this page that I realised the lives and wave number were in the bottom right and the remaining time of your power-ups is bottom left, you'd never have time to look at those in the heat of battle.

The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled

Whatever the result, one of the greatest tricks that Scintillatron 4096 pulls is that between-level and end-of-game score screens take on great personal significance, as you look to see where you can improve or how you did particularly well (or badly) in a category and how you compare to the online score tables.

With tables for highest score, level, number of combos and so on, there are various ways to play the game, and lots of little tricks to pick-up, like collecting power-ups in between levels or herding enemies into a corner and picking up the three-way shooter.  Power ups give you more firepower, which can be good or bad depending on your needs. They can freeze the enemies in place or provide extra lives and a range of other tricks.

Scintillatron's start screen and trance music easily make for a great screensaver. I wish there was a way to view that without the text and scores over them. Even better if you could play your own music - the Vita always lacked that feature in the music player app. Any chance of a patch for that?

As with any game this focused, there's a few things I think are missing. A sniper zoom option for really close enemies would be cool, perhaps limited to one use per level. Also, since the aim is for perfection, how about an undo power-up if you happen to cock one shot up?

Powerups could also do with some colour differentiation to keep your focus on the action and not squinting for help in the corners of a level. And, would it be too much to ask for an endless or passive mode? And, yes the Vita lacks the PS4's two player mode, but that doesn't feel like a great loss.

While I do love the music, the discordant sound effects and retro speech synthesis seriously grate. I know why the voice sounds a bit like Gauntlet, but its one more distraction I don't need in the middle of a tough level. At least you can turn the speech volume down.

Also, I see the same scores on levels rather too often, if I get 58,600 on level one, one more time!!! So, perhaps either an extra speed or accuracy factor on the score calculator would be good to shake things up.

In reasonably short bursts, Scintillatron is a fun demonic challenge, and hopefully plenty of Vita owners will get their names on those online high score charts.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £7.99 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: kFunction
File size 257MB
Progress: Top of the combo scores (for now)