Version tested: Xbox 360
This, the creators claim, is the most co-op game ever made. It's a bold ejaculation, but one that could well be true. I suspect if I rummaged around in my headbox I'd be able to think of a few games that might challenge the statement, but I'll be generous and allow them their moment of self-proclaimed glory.
In concept Schizoid is a mash-up between the top-down mayhem of Gauntlet, the colour-coded gameplay of Ikaruga, and the lyrics of Phil Collins that gave us the wonderful, and biologically unlikely, image of two hearts beating in just one mind.
Now, you may need to concentrate for this bit. There are two spaceships sealed in a top-down maze, one blue and one red. There are lots of alien enemies, also blue and red. If the blue spaceship touches a red alien, you lose a life. If it touches a blue alien, the alien explodes. And the reverse is true of the red ship. Straight away, you can see how this dynamic forces you to work together. Blue player clears red aliens that can harm the red player, while the red player clears the blue aliens that can hurt the blue player. As you're playing from a shared pool of lives, teamwork is absolutely essential if you want to progress through the 120 levels.
The aliens can evolve and change if you don't get to them fast enough, going from mindless bouncing blobs to voracious predators and eventually indestructible balls of death. Power-ups are available, but can only be activated by picking them up and bringing them to your partner. Since there's no shooting, this is yet another cunning gameplay mechanic that forces you to change the way you expect to play.
Schizoid is certainly full of fantastic ideas, but there are a few issues leaving waxy smears on an otherwise attractive finish. Firstly there's the consideration that this is, by nature, a game of negligible value for the friendless. You can opt to play alongside an AI bot, which isn't always the sharpest spoon in the drawer, or to control both ships yourself - a twin-stick feat that is frankly impossible. If you can do it, you're a freak and should be burned. Local and Live play is where the action is, though I found the frantic action worked better when you could see and react to the other person.
The main problem is the visuals. Everything is drenched in that diffuse glow popularised by Geometry Wars, and overused ever since by far too many XBLA games, and with ships and aliens sharing colour palettes for the gameplay to work, the result can sometimes be a confusing scrum. The game often requires delicate and precise movement, and that's not always possible when your view becomes a smear of wobbly screen effects and coloured vapour trails. Losing a precious life because you literally couldn't see where you were isn't fun.
Apart from that grumble, Schizoid is a welcome change of pace from the usual top-down shooter - not least because it's not a shooter, and instead turns co-op play from a fun optional extra into the core of the game.
7 / 10