Developer Torpex Games is mighty proud of Schizoid's co-op gameplay and has even gone so far as to say that it's the best co-op experience on Xbox Live Arcade. Although it is fun, the co-op is really only as good as your partner because if you don't work together, things will get very frustrating, very fast. When you do have a good friend beside you or on Xbox Live, Schizoid comes close to delivering on this lofty promise.
The game rules are simple. As the blue ship, you must destroy blue enemies while avoiding red enemies. The red ship, controlled by a friend, the computer, or you--depending on the mode--must destroy red enemies while avoiding the blue. A few power-ups and special enemies add a little variety to the straightforward formula. It's an easy concept to grasp, which is good because the game doesn't wait very long before it throws you into some sticky situations.
Schizoid is a game made for two players, so it's not terribly surprising that the single-player modes don't entertain for long. The mode that partners you with a computer-controlled ally is called Bot Training, as in "This is what you use to warm up for multiplayer." The AI bot performs adequately in the earlier levels, but you're not going to want to try to play through the game with it. If you're bent on playing Schizoid alone, you can try Uber Schizoid mode. In this mode, you're given control of both ships, one to each analog stick. A long line stretches off each ship to different sides of the screen to remind you which hand controls which ship. It's a fun distraction and requires you to have some extreme coordination, but the difficulty curve is so high that only achievement fiends or sadists will play this mode long enough to get through more than the first set of levels.
The multiplayer modes give you 100 levels to fight through in local co-op or over Xbox Live. Campaign mode lets you play through each set of levels, while the single-player mode lets you select specific stages. You're given 10 lives to share before each set of seven levels; if you lose them all before finishing the set, you'll have to start over. Schizoid cuts down on the frustration of repetition a little by allowing you to skip levels you received a gold medal on the second time around. Sticking with the co-op theme, the power-ups--a lightning bomb, a speed boost, and a razor wire--can only be activated by working together.
Enemies and level layouts get extremely tricky later in the game; it won't be long until you're cursing your fumbling hands, the game, or your partner. It's maddeningly difficult at times, but progress comes at a steady enough trickle that you'll keep coming back for more punishment. Chasing an enemy as it chases your partner (who is chasing an enemy chasing you) is a regular occurrence. Not only do the enemies grow more complex over time, but the levels also grow stranger and more intricate. Some of them deliver a Schizoid twist on classic arcade games, such as the Wakka Wakka levels that have you chasing down egg-laying enemies in Pac-Man-style mazes.
The visuals are bright and flashy. Each level takes place within what looks like a fluctuating amoeba; the dark borders and background contrast well with the brightly colored ships and enemies. The ships and enemies also glow and crackle with shiny lighting effects. While they certainly look nice, some of the larger explosions from power-ups or death can be disorienting. This can really be a problem on the smaller levels where it's easy to lose your ship in the chaotic blasts and florescent explosions. You're given a temporary force field whenever someone dies, but it can still be hard to navigate through the dazzling visuals. The generic throbbing techno music fits the visuals well, plus the sounds of exploding enemies and power-ups are satisfying.
As a single-player game, Schizoid is outflanked by such cheaper psychedelic games as Geometry Wars, but if you have someone to play with, you'll definitely get your 800 points worth of co-op fun.