Atomega has stuck with me. Ubisoft Reflections' brilliant follow-up to Grow Home and Grow Up is an ingenious multiplayer battler that's completely unlike any other multiplayer battler I have ever encountered. And it's all so simple: as you race around an arena, blasting away at your enemies, you're also collecting the mass you need in order to grow. The bigger you are, the more dangerous you are and the more points you can score - but you're also more exposed.
I've been at this since the start on and off, but over the last few weeks it's gotten really interesting. Atomega launched with a single map. Now there are a handful.
Brilliantly, they all retain elements of the original map. There are the same sorts of buildings around the outside of the arena, which tends towards the kind of chunky, numinous architecture that you get from ancient cultures. In the centre, though, the maps have their own gimmicks. Temple has a vast structure with cavernous interiors lurking beneath a sickly green sky. Nova reaches towards the heavens, one tower balanced magically upon another. My favourite, though, is Void. Void is completely brilliant. In Void, as you might imagine, the important feature turns out to be the thing that's gone missing.
Void doesn't have as much floor as you might be expecting. Instead, the ground drops away the closer you get towards the centre of the map, until you're left picking between spars of skyscrapers that just seem to float, untethered. At the very center of it all is a spawn-point for mass, which seems unusually active, although that may just be the conspiracy theorist in me. Whatever's going on, I am drawn to the center in this map, and then left, inevitably, to dash along fragile light bridges while I'm pursued by all the other players who have also decided to converge.
So Void is a devious treat to play, but that's only half the fun here. What I really like about Void is the atmosphere. I finally realised, racing over this map, exactly why Atomega feels so different to Grow Home and Grow Up, despite them having similar colour schemes and a similar energising playfulness.
Grow Home and Grow Up are about the limitless possibilities of being young and exploring a huge over-sized world that you suddenly find yourself in. Atomega is about growing bigger, but it's also somehow about being old. The game is set during the final ten minutes of the universe, with each match ending in juddering horror as the final sun fizzles out in the sky. Void's cool blue tones and dark, glossy buildings really feel like mausolea: this is where all life in existence has come to flicker and dim to nothingness.
Sounds bleak, but with Atomega it's just mysterious and endlessly intriguing. Another match begins and the whole thing kicks off again. You're back, safe, it seems, from the moment that the throbbing sun with engulf everyone playing, and the landscape around you is waiting to be explored once more. A map like Void seems to acknowledge where things are headed, though. What a fascinating game this is.
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