Akka arrh

February 27, 2023

I got over my made-up problems and bought Akka arrh for the Switch. Of course. The choice has already paid off by way of me playing exclusively in places where I would not have been able to fit a regular console (or my non-existing gaming PC).

What kind of game is it?

One of the sticky descriptions I have seen is that Akka arrh is a tower defense game where you control the single tower. It is a somewhat thoughtful shooter where you are stationary in the middle of the playing field, and enemies come in from all directions. You have two main weapons: bombs and bullets. Bombs set of shock waves, and enemies caught in the shock wave explode, creating their own shock waves. The more enemies you get with the chain reaction from one bomb, the higher you score. That way, you are incentivised to use as few bombs as possible. Bullets, on the other hand, do not reset any scoring, and there are some enemies and enemy bullets which can only be hit by bullets. However, you have a limited supply of bullets and only get more by killing enemies with bombs.

Much of the feel of the game, and variation between levels, come from those bomb chain reactions. The shock waves slowly move across the play field, and the pattern varies from simple circles to strange kaleidoscope patterns. Sometimes there are various types of mirroring of the explosions, sometimes parts of the board block them, things like that. When you get a good chain going, gameplay can feel quite relaxed. You sit back, enjoy the fireworks, and keep an eye out for those un-bombable enemeis and their bullets.

If an enemy reaches you, they will rush "downstairs" in your tower to try and steal your energy pods. Losing all energy pods predictably ends the game. You combat this by hitting a button to also head downstairs, which is a separate shooting minigame which ends the moment all enemies downstairs are blown up.

That is pretty much it, at least as far as I have got. There will probably be some really strange twists here and there during the fifty levels.

Look mom, rainbow particles

Of course, being a Jeff Minter game, the visuals are exactly what you would expect. If you do not know what to expect from Jeff Minter, go have a look at a video or something. Screenshots of course convey something as well, but you should really see it move. Akka arrh is flashing, pulsating, vibrating with colour, particles, and any other effect you can think of. If that sounds a bit overwhelming, it sure can be at times, but it is also somehow very well balanced. It does not take long to get a feel for what you need to care about at any given moment, and despite the visual chaos the important things are usually easy to pick out. I do not know what the secret to that is, but I suspect there is a lot of careful thought behind the way things look and move.

Do you like it?

Yes, I do. I feel that I have only scratched the surface yet, so I am curious if my feeling for the game will change once I hit more challenging levels. As it stands right now, I enjoy the different elements and jumping between them, and the level of chaos has yet to get out of hand as completely as it could do in many other Minter games. Akka arrh is a nice mix of expected Minter and surprise Minter, if that makes any sense. A bit more thought, a bit less gut feeling. A slightly calmer zone to be in than, say, Polybius.

I will have more thoughts later on. For right now: I wonder if there is a soundtrack …

Oh, and I would love this, too, in VR.