Genre: Action & Adventure
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Mode: Local (2 players)
Price: 80 MS Points ($1)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: Yes
Of all the games I've looked at over the course of Indie-Ana Co-Op, there has been only one other one (Protect Me Knight!) that has given me as big of a retro gaming feel as Apoxxle's Null Divide. It's to the point that I almost believe I should be holding an old Atari joystick in my hand instead of an XBox controller while playing.
The game starts simply with the title splashed on the screen in big pixilated block letters while a thoroughly 8-bit chip tune plays in the background. If the first few simple notes don't stoke the fires of your retro-gamer heart, diving into the game definitely should. From the simple graphical depiction of your ship (in two exciting shades of grey), to the blocky layout of the abandoned base you find yourself exploring, Null Divide invokes the days when game credits rolled with names like "Taro" or "Ban Ban" instead of the actual developer names. It's the kind of thing that brings utter joy to anyone who grew up playing video games on TVs that still used RF switches to connect the console to the screen. Best of all, while the presentation of the game bears such a striking resemblance to the games of yore, the gameplay doesn't suffer from many of the gameplay drawbacks that they did.
Navigation about the space station feels very smooth and there are no artificial gravity mechanics to muck about with that cause you to keep going forward into enemy fire or a harmful barrier. Returning fire is handled like many modern twin-stick shooters with the right-stick controlling your aim (complete with a helpful red line to indicate exactly what direction in which you'll be firing), and the right-trigger actually fires the gun. Of course, this takes place after you unlock the functionality. You see, as you explore the abandoned space station in your ship, you collect power-ups, keys, and new abilities along the way. There's a very Metroid vibe to the way things are handled, right down to the secret areas you can discover by flying through seemingly solid walls and it all works very well.
Some of the enemies even look like old NES controller directional pads. Nostalgia+1
Co-op play in Null Divide is local only, but it's also drop-in/drop-out. When the second player joins, he is given a white ship to control that has all of the same abilities that have been unlocked by the first player. So if the first player can now boost and perform some other rather nifty tricks, then the second player can, too. Both players also share one life bar so should one player die, then both die. Fortunately, save points are well placed and flying over one completely restores the players' life. The one downside to all this, though, is that it can produce a little bit of a learning curve for the second player if he hasn’t been playing any of the game so far. The game also doesn't allow each player to freely explore the station on his or her own; should one player get a bit too far away from the other, he or she will instantly be teleported next to the other. This does help keep things co-op friendly, but can also be a bit surprising if one person isn't paying attention and suddenly is teleported into the path of a bullet.
Drop-in/drop-out co-op was one of those features that never really seemed like a big deal to me. Most of my gaming is done either online or in pre-arranged local sessions, so it wasn't ever really an issue. With Null Divide, though, I can't imagine playing the game without it. It's so completely retro in almost every other aspect, that the ability to have a friend hop in, hop out for a bit for whatever reason, and then hop right back in without having to stop the game to go to a lobby, just completes that picture for me. It takes me back to the days when I sat on the couch and played games with my family; a feeling I rarely get nowadays with any other game I play. Null Divide doesn't do anything new in any of the main areas folks typically look at with games: graphics, gameplay, audio, or innovation. But in the end, that's really the point; it is pure, simple old-school fun through and through.
Null Divide is For: Everyone. Seriously.
The Co-Op Experience: Each player controls his or her own ship as you explore an abandoned space station in search of a way out. Life and ship abilities that have been discovered/unlocked by the first player are shared, and drop-in/drop-out is fully supported