The Nintendo Switch has become a premier destination for smaller indie titles, being able to take these games on the go seems to have naturally caused it to attract a lot of arcade-style games. Cycle 28 is a minimalistic space shooter focusing on a Groundhog Day-esque death and repeat gimmick.
You take control of Olivia Bergen, separated from her fleet and forced to fight an enemy she doesn’t really understand, improving her ship and tactics whilst she repeatedly takes on wave after wave of enemies as she endures the most recent cycle. Hoping eventually to figure out the reason why cycle 27 is stuck on loop and break through to the titular cycle 28. Each time in the cycle, you progress a little further unlocking new perks which aid you in this cyclical paradox of death.
Cycle 28 is a simple to pick up and play shooter based heavily around momentum. Controls are simple, thrust, rotate and fire; deceptively though, within minutes you’ll be gliding alongside the enemy blasting whilst things explode all around you.
There is a story which is told via fragmentary messages when you restart a cycle that allows you to piece together what is happening, who the enemy is and why you are stuck but the game itself is predominantly a score attack game. Each time you beat your personal best you’ll unlock an upgrade which range from enhancing the friendly drones that spawn periodically or giving you broadside lasers and beyond.
Your ship is initially armed with forward-firing lasers and the aforementioned drones that spawn to assist you. You’ll face off against simple scouts before bigger and bigger ships enter the fray the longer you survive. The upgrades you get can be equipped in pairs so there is a definite sense of finding ones you prefer to get the most tactical benefit, enhancing drones gives you more passive damage whilst the different laser options let you effectively change your attack pattern.
In many ways the core gameplay feels very similar to Vlambeer’s Luftrausers but with a space dogfighting aesthetic. The music is an interesting atmospheric affair which works really well whilst you ebb between coasting along and instant panic! Visually the game is extremely minimalist, simple shapes for the most part, in a brown and blue colour scheme which doesn’t really jump off the screen.
Cycle 28’s gameplay is a lot of fun though, and it works equally well in the Switch’s docked and undocked mode although I found myself playing it portably a LOT more, the quickfire length of each session works perfectly for on the go play. Ultimately there isn’t a lot of variety here but if this type of repeat play, score-based shooter scratches an itch then you can’t really argue at the budget price.
Cycle 28 (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
A fun little momentum shooter with a drab visual style that is perfect for quick bouts of play. The difficulty and repeat play design won’t be for everyone but if you are after a Luftrausers-esque title at a budget price you can’t go wrong.