Adult Swim Games had a huge presence at PAX West 2016 (more on that later). Showing off a bunch of upcoming games, it was tough to choose what to try out in my short time with them. However, once I saw Desync in action I had to get my hands on it. An old school styled shooter with a bunch of new mechanics and great digital aesthetics, Desync drew me in immediately, and getting to play it only cemented the obsession.
A beautiful art style on top of an old school shooter/fighting game combo
Set inside a digital world, Desync is the Tron styled shooter that you’ve always wanted, and only kinda got from the official Tron game. I’m sure there’s a story here, but I was too enamored by the visuals and gameplay to really dig deeply into it. Basically you’re inside a computer and a bunch of baddies are coming at you, now kill them.
And it’s the way you kill them that makes Desync click so well. Taking old school shooter movement and mechanics and layering on top some new innovations, the game feels fantastic to play. Your character glides around the arena, but not in the floaty way that many games have tried to use to mimic older shooter movement. Whipping your weapon around at lightning speed, you need to use your speed and maneuvering to your advantage, keeping enemies right in your reticle, and away from you.
Desync is a single player experience, putting you into levels and setting enemies upon you at a frantic pace. Waves will arrive and quickly push your shooter skills to the limits, but you have many tricks up your sleeve. Dodging and sliding maneuvers keep you in motion all the time, and these actually factor into the gameplay in more ways than you might imagine. There are different styles of play, and attack combos that you can pull off, scoring more points and dealing damage at the same time.
For example, sliding toward your enemy and shooting them in the face is more of the aggressive style of play, and pulling off that particular combo will deliver a nice slow-mo shot of the carnage you just wrought. Meanwhile, dodging at the perfect moment and popping a few shots into the enemy’s back is more tactical, and defensive, again delivering a slow-mo shot upon first getting it right. You can mix and match your styles as you play, but most will probably find themselves fitting within certain patterns, only branching out as the situation dictates.
There’s still more to Desync though, with the game offering a deceptively simple premise that gets deeper the more you play. Levels themselves are important, as you use the environment to your advantage. One stage I played had spike traps, which I could try to lure enemies into. Smarter foes knew to avoid them, but I could always shoot them at the right angle, then watch as the spikes sent them flying, and sprawling to the ground.
The name of the game is also pertinent to the gameplay, with certain enemies being “synced”, causing them to be much more difficult to take out. By pulling off a combo, which gave the feeling of a shooter mixed with a fighting game in many ways, you could desync them, and eliminate them more effectively. Discovering new combos, or sequences will likely be a big part of the game, and one that I wish I could have gotten more out of from this demo.
A beautiful art style on top of an old school shooter/fighting game combo isn’t something I would come up with on my own, and it’s exactly why Desync was such a great surprise at PAX West 2016. The game was a blast to play in my short demo, and by the end I felt like I simply wanted more time with the game. I’ll be getting it when Desync hits PC later this year.