On the face of it, Pressure looks like a frantic racer / shoot 'em up hybrid. Play through a few levels and that statement becomes only a third correct. It's not frantic, nor is it technically a racing game. While momentarily fun, this top-down car shooter never really amounts to anything more than controlling your car at moderate speeds, trying to maintain a line of sight as you (try to) blast countless hordes of enemy cars out of your way.
There is more to Pressure, of course, and to summarise it like this does it little justice, but it does itself no favours either. There is an interesting, cutesy storyline involving an evil villain stealing all of your water for his spa, and you hop into your weaponised car to take it back by destroying everything that stands in your way, naturally. But then the game happens, and you end up doing little more than holding down the fire button and weaving your car constantly from left to right while trying simultaneously to shoot the bad guys and keep your car on the road.
The world is nicely designed to a point, as the absence of water necessitates the invention of brass four-wheeled contraptions that wouldn't look out of place in a visualised Jules Verne novel. Barren deserts with curiously green fields and trees provide the steampunk setting for your carnage on long, long, mostly straight roads. The enemies that litter the raceways gunning for you consist of mini tanks, cars, even land boats. Explosions go off here, there and everywhere, and the bigger the enemies are, the harder they fall, and the bigger the reward.
The reward is pressure, as the title suggests. This is the game's core mechanic, and this is where it lets itself down the most. Pressure allows your car to move, and it rapidly depletes as you do so. When your pressure gauge empties, you stop and it is naturally game over. To top it up you destroy enemy vehicles and pass checkpoints. Generally speaking, enemies require too many shots to kill and provide trifling amounts of pressure, meaning you have to be deadly accurate and consistent with your firing; and checkpoints are too widely spaced out. These pitfalls can be offset by upgrading your car with gadgets and gizmos adding handling, speed and firepower to your car, but with no descriptions or guidelines to help you through, pick the wrong upgrade and you've made life very difficult for yourself. There is no going back, nor is there any stockpiling of money by repeating the same level. You are stuck with whatever you buy, and oftentimes - even on the early levels - you'll find yourself quite literally running out of steam and grinding to a halt.
Frankly, Pressure could have done without the pressure system altogether as it really hampers what enjoyment could be gleaned from the game. The core gameplay is reminiscent of the old top-down Spyhunter, or even any shooter of the same ilk, like 1942 or Xenon. All I wanted to do was drive fast and shoot things, but the pressure system truly crippled my progress and satisfaction. Fair enough, it adds an original and dare I say tactical element to the genre, but the game, upgrades and level design are wholly unbalanced, which is a real shame.
With all these negatives, Pressure is actually promising and fun in places. Boss battles are an interesting setup, with huge clunking machines obstructing your path which you need to take apart piece by piece – a welcome, albeit not too different distraction from the laborious side-to-side swerving gunplay which envelops the game. Some levels take you away from the dull arid landscapes to roads, building interiors and lakes, and enemy vehicles become more and more varied and diverse, including boats, blimps and gunmen in rubber dinghies, but it's more matter, less art.
For a game steeped so heavily in arcade top down shooters of yore, it could have done with being, well, more arcadey. It does have some multiplayer options which go so far as to increase its interest and longevity, but it only leaves the overall experience as a slightly polished turd. You can attack the game with friends over a local or LAN connection, and help each other out by sharing your pressure with your partner when theirs is low. However, being a very valuable and much needed resource, you need every little bit for yourself making the whole inclusion redundant.
Pressure is sadly a let-down. The steampunk setting, the top down shooting gameplay and cutscenes (not too dissimilar-looking to Theme Hospital) all lend themselves to a quaint and enjoyable little game. It's just the unbalanced nature of everything and less than satisfying carnage, mixed with the core pressure mechanic being utterly pointless and impeding of any gratification that regrettably make this one to miss. There are worse games out there, but there are much better ones too.
Pressure (Reviewed on Windows)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
On the face of it, Pressure looks like a frantic racer / shoot 'em up hybrid. Play through a few levels and that statement becomes only a third correct. It's not frantic, nor is it technically a racing game.