Project Root review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Reverb Triple XP
Developer: Pablo Testa
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I hate Project Root, and I’m going to be totally up front as to why: I suck at it. A lot. I’ve put countless hours into it, yet no matter how much I play I always feel like I’m not getting any further.

To be fair, part of this feeling can be chalked up to the game’s visuals and design. Even though Project Root is an open-world(ish) “shmup” (really, it’s more a twin-stick shooter, but they’re calling it a shmup, so it’s a shmup), each level is set on one, same-y looking map and calls on you to fly all over the place doing missions that can be boiled down to “Go here, blow this up”. There’s not a whole lot of variety in the missions or the visuals, which means the whole thing gets pretty tedious really quickly.

Project Root 2

Of course, in my case the reason I feel like I’m not getting any further is less because the game’s layout doesn’t offer much feeling of progress, and more because I’m literally not getting any further. I’ve died in this game more times than I can count, which means that my progress is stuck somewhere between “nil” and “non-existent”. It doesn’t help that Project Root has no checkpoint system, which means that every time you die you get sent right back to the beginning to start over. Considering that most levels take at least 30-40 minutes to complete, you can see how it can very quickly start to seem as though the game is a boring exercise in treading water.

What’s disappointing about this is that the game’s concept is a pretty neat one. As I said above, Project Root calls itself a shmup, only it’s unlike any shmup I’ve ever played. Rather than being a unidirectional side-scroller here enemies always come at you from one side of the screen, this game gives you an overhead view and sends enemies at you from all sides. They couple this with an enormous map — one so big that, while the game may not technically live up to its description as “open-world”, the reality is that the map is so large and your ship so small and so slow-moving, it could practically be open-world. Taken together, the whole thing feels like the most expansive twin-stick shooter I’ve ever played.

Project Root 1

As you can probably tell from that description, however, the incredibly high level of difficulty is written right into the game’s DNA. Not only do you have enemies constantly coming at you from all sides non-stop for about 30-40 minutes, they can also fire at you from off-screen. Plus, as you quickly discover (and then have reinforced for you again and again and again), just because your enemies have been shot down it doesn’t mean that their heat seeking missiles were, too.

As far as I’m concerned, however, no matter how interesting the concept may be, the fact the gameplay doesn’t measure up makes Project Root a non-starter. Or, to be more specific, the fact that the developers didn’t choose to include any checkpoints at all in a game that involves massive levels and constant death makes Project Root a non-starter for me. I can handle dying a lot, and I can take a challenge, and I can even handle a little repetition. But having all that plus a sense of pointless tedium? Then yeah, I’m going to pass.

Grade: C