App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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ATOMINE is a twin-stick shooter with a pretty bizarre premise. You play as a computer virus that is constantly evolving as it takes down computer system after computer system. Although the game launched on the App Store with some pretty significant performance issues, a series of updates have made it a much smoother experience. Although the game now runs with little issue, ATOMINE's unique look has a peculiar way of both adding to and detracting from the experience.
Shoot to hack
In ATOMINE, you control a floating, cube-like object in a virtualized environment, and your mission is to upload yourself into increasingly more secure computer systems. You do this by defeating a certain number of cyber defenses (read: enemies) with your modules (read: weapons). Enemies can be anything from cubes that move and shoot just like you do to stationary, tower-like structures that shoot at you when you get close.
All of this controls pretty much like your run-of-the-mill twin-stick shooter, with one virtual stick controlling movement and another one for aiming and shooting. As you progress through computer systems, you end up facing increasingly difficult enemies and bosses, and your only chance to even the playing field is through finding modification stations that occasionally appear in ATOMINE's procedurally-generated levels.
ATOMINE has a bit of a roguelike bent to it in that if you die on a run, you have to start the game over from the very beginning. That said, in each run, you'll likely be unlocking new modules and other viruses to play as that can really mix up the experience.
In particular, ATOMINE's module system adds quite a bit of replayability to the game. Each module can be mixed and matched with other modules so that players can fine tune the kind of weapon they'd like you use. At its simplest, there are modules that define the kind of projectile your virus fires (e.g. missile, laser, etc.), but there are also modules that you can apply to these projectile types to give them special properties. For example, you can make your lasers fire in multiple directions, have missles that bounce off walls, and all sorts of other crazy combinations. The amount of ways you can customize your weapons using this system is astounding, and it gives you something to look forward to even if you're replaying a lot of the same levels repeatedly.
Aside from the module system, the main thing that sets ATOMINE apart from other twin-stick shooters is its aesthetic. The whole game has this sort of minimal, glitchy look that's really striking, but certain aspects of it can also make ATOMINE hard to play.
There are certain visual effects like screenshake and glitching effects that can be turned off in the settings menu, but there are also other aspects of the game's visual design that you just have to deal with. There are times when enemies fade in from nowhere, the menu system for using modules doesn't always display correctly, and a bunch of other little things that can be frustrating, especially since it's sometimes hard to tell if these things are happening by accident or because they are all part of ATOMINE's glitched out look.
The bottom line
ATOMINE certainly is a unique twin-stick shooter, but the visual aspects that make it look cool also make it harder to play. There are certainly neat things about it, particularly its modular weapon system, but even these things are obscured by some questionable visual design choices. Although the game is generally a pretty fun shooter, there are other ones out there that are more fun and less confusing.