Swimsanity! is a co-op twin-stick shooter from Decoy Games. While unfortunately, a small player base and connectivity issues mired our online experience with this party game, that does not mean it should be written off altogether. Swimsanity! is a game full of potential for sitting down for a fun local co-op challenge. And, for the brave among us, it can be a challenging single-player experience. Here are four reasons to give Swimsanity! local a go.
Challenging Co-op Mode
Across Swimsanity!’s five adventure stages and five survival arenas, there is no lack of challenging content. Each of the adventure stages is unique from one another with different objectives, be it escape a giant whale, survive waves of robotic enemies, or defeat a huge boss. None of these challenges are easy, but the difficulty never feels unfair. While death comes easily for those unable to dodge fast enough or shoot with enough accuracy, it always feels like a mistake that could be overcome with enough practice rather than insurmountable difficulty.
While playing by oneself dramatically increases the difficulty, even when taking on the survival mode with some friendly bots on your side, it is not an unworthy challenge. I am still not sure if the Insanity difficulty can be overcome playing single player, but the insurmountable difficulty drives all the more incentive to hunker down on the couch and fight on.
The hunker down and grind out a victory nature of the Swimsanity! local co-op experience is bolstered by its classic unlocking system. Some of my favorite games growing up were games that required you to play them over and over with friends to unlock everything. Super Smash Bros. Melee and Star Fox Assault are prime examples, where playing dozens and hundreds of multiplayer rounds would net you new characters and other unlockables.
Swimsanity!’s Gold Orbs system feels like it carries on the same vein. Unlocking orbs requires playing or winning a certain number of rounds in versus mode, accomplishing certain feats against other players, and completing the co-op levels under certain conditions. Accumulating orbs unlocks new Unleashes, special moves that change the tide of versus matches or help you fight further into survival rounds. There is just something to the joy of unlocking things in this fashion that hits a nostalgia button for me and makes me want to grind for all of the Gold Orbs.
Speaking of Unleashes, the variety in Swimsanity! is really impressive and diverse. None of the powers feel contrived or meaningless and which one you select, whether in a versus match or an adventure mode makes a serious difference in your game.
The power-ups and weapons you can temporarily gain during play, including bombs, missiles, shock, rapid-fire, trip mines, and speed boosts, also add to the calculation of how to play the game because they only appear so often. You have to shoot a capsule to get these power-ups and they rotate through three potential power-ups until you shoot them. Because you can only hold one at a time with a few exceptions, deciding whether to pick them up, or even to go out of the way to try to, adds an extra interesting layer to each mode.
The teleport mechanic is also a fun way to keep the versus mode interesting. With only four players shooting one another at a time, having a traversal method that makes you temporarily invulnerable is a well-implemented way to keep things interesting.
The Art Direction
I can’t help but be enamored by Swimsanity!‘s art direction. It isn’t anything revolutionary, but there is something about the vector art enemies and giant bosses that just feels rich with personality. An underwater-themed shooter is unique unto itself, but choosing to give it so much character brings the game to another level. I also really enjoy that each of the game’s five stages has different colored water to match the level. This is in addition to distinct backgrounds and foregrounds.
Swimsanity! is clearly crafted with love by its two-brother development team. While it is unfortunate that the game suffered from challenges connecting and playing online, as a local co-op experience, it is rife with challenges and incentives to play long into the night. Swimsantiy! is available now on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and PC.