Omega Five is a side-scrolling shooter in the vein of Gradius or R-Type, though if you're a fan of these types of shoot-'em-ups, it may remind you most of Capcom's Forgotten Worlds. Nevertheless, it's got a unique style that's very much its own, and while it may not initially seem like you get much for your 800 points, this Xbox Live Arcade release is surprisingly compelling and quite a looker to boot. If you like an old-fashioned challenge and don't mind the trial and error inherent to this sort of game, Omega Five will deliver several hours of high-energy entertainment.
You should know right off the bat that there are only four levels to blast your way through. That isn't many, but they're jam-packed with colorful, interesting enemies and fun boss fights, and each level has a delightfully unique visual design that makes it a joy to play through again and again. Off the bat, you'll choose one of two characters, each with his or her own special attack and weapon types--though you can unlock three more characters with multiple play-throughs. Then you fight your way through entire flotillas of flying saucers, laser-shooting skulls, giant scaly lizards, and piles of space debris. The replay value here isn't in the amount of actual content, but in the interesting differences among the characters and their available weapons, the delight in making it through an entire level unscathed, and in true retro fashion, earning a high score. In fact, you can even unlock a retro mode that skins the entire game to look as if it's from the 16-bit era.
As you gun through each level, you'll accumulate pink triangles, and when you get enough, you can activate a devastating area attack that destroys all but the most resolute of your foes. That screenwide explosion may help ease the challenge from time to time, but there's no doubt that many players will find Omega Five to be a relatively tough game. It is not, however, an unfair one. Your eyes may have some initial trouble getting used to a screen filled with brightly colored fire and highly mobile enemies, all against busy, vibrant backgrounds. Once you get accustomed to the visual style and attack patterns, however, it never feels as though the game throws at you insurmountable odds, so none of your deaths will ever be cheap. But if you're usually intimidated by the level of difficulty in these types of games, you'll be pleased to know that the more you play, the more continues you earn. If you're worried this will make the game too easy, never fear: The challenge modes and online leaderboards will keep your interest piqued.
Omega Five has its share of quirks, such as the relatively limited weaponry. Each character has only three weapons, and each weapon can only be leveled up twice. It's also a bit disappointing to unlock R.A.D. only to find that she plays so similarly to Ruby. The biggest drawback, however, is that while you can play cooperatively with a buddy, co-op isn't available online. This one addition could have given a game that's admittedly short on content much longer legs.
Yet there's no doubt that fans of side-scrolling blast-'em-ups will get a kick out of Omega Five. It's got a keen and fun visual style, rocks out to a pulsing soundtrack, and packs a lot of action into its 30 minutes of content. Fortunately, that small chunk of gameplay is highly enjoyable and can be stretched into a few hours of entertainment without feeling overly repetitive. While $5 would have made this game a steal, $10 is still worth it for such an attractive, stimulating ride that gets more rewarding the more you play it.