Bullet hell. Arcade shooters. Shoot-em-ups. All these mean one thing, lots of bullets and usually a high level of difficulty. I’ve always had a fondness for this genre, one with roots in the arcades, but I never was as skilled as some of my friends. Shoot-em-ups in particular I find endearing with their adorable style and crushing challenges. All these years of shmups though and there hasn’t been a ton of innovation with the exception of a handful of titles. Dimension Drive is a fairly basic shooter with one unique gimmick that sets it apart and makes it a one of a kind title for the Switch, but there are some flaws holding it back.
The main gimmick has players hopping between two screens to solve simple puzzles and combat foes. Interestingly enough, the player has ammo tied to their weapons, which slowly drains a health percentage bar. Picking up orbs or bouncing to the other screen will restore health, making it a frantic act of balance.
That balance can lead to some tense moments, making it easy to make a mistake. There’s also the usual fair of shields and power-ups, plus there is a handy audio reminder for when it’s time to switch and recharge.
Visually the game is as generic science fiction as it gets. There are some pleasing designs, but it all blends together. Different presentation could have prevented this. That said, the models are clear enough to see what’s what and most enemies have a particular silhouette. Dimension Drive doesn’t have the style that I’m used to seeing in this genre, but the gameplay is certainly there.
Although, I desperately wish there was an arcade setting to tackle levels in a more traditional manner. That may exist, but I wanted it to be a separate option for those that just want to play from the get-go. There is co-operative mode though for some buddy action and some higher challenge levels for maniacs.
I am going to have to shoot straight with Dimension Drive. There are a few really cool ideas and it works fairly well, but there a few flaws that keep it from truly excelling.
For starters the plot is bland. Everything is presented as a comic book, but it’s usually an image or two with a ton of exposition. There’s something about an alien race conquering dimensions and our hero being the last of her kind. All that matters is that the ship moves upwards, there are bad guys, and bullets take them down. Some establishing story would have been far more effective.
There is some progression over time, like a brake for some fun, but frustrating, gate puzzles. Bouncing from dimensions to flick a switch to pop back and go through a gate is pretty cool. Bosses also play with the dimension hopping mechanic well. Finding the pattern and staying out of danger is extremely rewarding. I also had a really tough time keeping track of things, which is part of the appeal sure, but it crossed my eyes a few time. This is definitely a game I wouldn’t try to marathon. It’s a fun and quick way to spend twenty minutes to get through a level though. Portable mode on the Switch was my preferred way to play this one, as it’s been on most titles.
I did wish that the overall pacing of the game was faster. Level to level there is just too much down time. This feeling of things being slow despite having quite a few frantic mechanic centered moments was likely due to the plot. Some may find the story interesting, but it just didn’t gel with me. Luckily, it can be skipped, but some of the loading can be just enough to be irritating.
While there were not any issues after a level loaded, there was enough loading time to notice. During my time with Dimension Drive though I talked to a couple other players and they didn’t seem to share this thought on the PC version of the game. Therefore, that flaw could be fixed with subsequent patches and could likely be patched out shortly after this review.
Honestly, though there is fun to be had with Dimension Drive, it just doesn’t have that wow factors that a few other bullet hell games have. There’s not the instant charm of Cotton or the frantic nature of Ikaruga. For the price though, it’s worth looking into for fans of the genre looking for something inherently different.
Dimension Drive likely won’t become a favorite, but it stands as an interesting approach to a classic genre.