There’s a few things indie games are really good at. Pixel art, claiming that they’re like Dark Souls, making references to other indie games, asking for money via crowdfunding, that sort of thing. Seriously, though, the one “microgenre” that indie developers have really captured: the pick-up-and-play game. Titles like Super Crate Box, Runers and many others have shown that if you want to sit down with a game for a half an hour and still have a good time, chances are there’s an indie out there to accommodate you. Sunnykatt’s Koya Rift, a new tiny shooter available on Steam for around $4, is a great example of this concept.
You control a Lancer, basically a robot suit that wields a variety of energy weapons called Lances as well as a few ally robots. Every time you load the game you’re offered a selection of Lances and can choose a couple that you’d like to use. You’ll take your Lances, proceed from your ship and head into the earth to battle the Phantoms, ghostly skull beasts that desire nothing more than to eat you and your babies. Phantoms are spawned from underground crystals and destroying them all wins you the game; at first this is pretty easy, but as you play Koya Rift learns from your strategies and becomes more and more difficult over time.
The first few rounds are cake, but as you keep going the game puts up more of a fight until you’re struggling, then it’ll come back down again so you aren’t bashing your face against a brick wall. It’s an interesting concept that you don’t see all that often outside of some Japanese shmups, but it means that you aren’t going to see what the game can really do until you’ve “beaten” it a few times and it’s had a chance to learn from you. Once the difficulty has had a chance to adjust a bit by playing single matches in Battle Mode, you can play the Campaign Mode, which is basically a bunch of individual battles in sequence.
That’s all there is to Koya Rift, really. The selection of different Lances, which provide a variety of effects ranging from heavy blasts to slowing effects to healing and buffing your ally robots, is probably the highlight of the experience, but even then it’s not an extremely deep game. Instead, it’s a compact experience that you can enjoy in short bursts. The scaling difficulty means that after your first few runs you’ll have customized the game’s difficulty to match your skill, so you’re guaranteed a challenge every time you load it up.
In other words, don’t come into Koya Rift expecting a 60-hour epic and you won’t be disappointed. For $4 that’s really about right. I’ve played worse games for more money. So have you. Give it a shot.