Vacations are meant to be fun and relaxing, giving you a chance to get away from the various forms of work in your life. The tourists of Utopia 9 thought the same, but were sadly mistaken upon crashing on a distant planet. Now instead of the vacation they were promised, they have to fight for their lives, and you’re going to help.
The story of Utopia 9 is simple: you play as a tourist that booked a vacation with a travel agency on another planet. Things didn’t play out as planned, so now they must fight through hordes of aliens as they make their way to the travel agency’s office to file a complaint. It’s funny that the goal isn’t just you trying to escape, but making sure you make your formal complaint so you can leave. This goal adds a more comedic touch to the plot of the game.
You start the game with a pistol, a suitcase, and a camera. The pistol is a laser gun, the suitcase is your melee weapon, and the camera is a tool that blinds the enemy temporarily. This is a pretty good starting set, and can actually get you through the first level using these tools exclusively. Anything that aren’t melee weapons have finite ammo, which means you’ll need to decide your plan of attack. The melee weapons thankfully last forever unless you decide to abandon them. As you play, you’ll be able to find a variety of weapons and tools such as the exhaust gun, machine gun, baseball bat, mine launcher, vortex grenades, and more. You can carry up to four weapons and one tool at the same time. Pressing left or right on the D-pad swaps the corresponding weapon with the one in its backup slot. This is really useful if you have a backup weapon that will come in handy in a tight spot.
Each level has a pretty straightforward path you need to follow. Along the way, you’ll run into aliens that will try to gun you down or blow you up. Most of the time playing is spent outside in open areas, but there are some buildings that you can enter if you choose to do so. These buildings are primarily locations that house one or more chests that you can open. You’ll have to take down anyone hanging out in that building, but it tends to be worth the trouble. The chests can contain anything from powerful weapons to new tools to armor to medkits. For that reason, chests are one of the most important parts of the game.
When playing, the threat of death is always looming. If you do get killed, whichever enemy killed you becomes a nemesis. That means that the next tourist you control can find this nemesis and defeat them in order to reclaim the former tourist’s loadout. It’s a cool mechanic that not only lets you get revenge on the specific enemy that killed you (as we all tend to want to do), but it gives you the chance to re-acquire some stronger weapons you may have found. The game lets you know when you’ve found a nemesis, which makes it even easier to take care of them. They are tougher than the average alien though, so be careful. While you technically can beat the game on a first run-through, the roguelike aspect of death encourages replay value here.
Before starting a level, you’ll be shown the map, and are given the chance between one of two paths. Each path has its own rewards that you can find, so choose whatever opportunities seem the most appealing to you. Some paths become linear for a bit, but they can end up branching again later. At the end of your journey, you’ll reach the travel agency office. Your final challenge is a boss fight that you must win in order to file your complaint. The fight offers a good challenge and requires you to make the most of your loadout. It isn’t crazy hard, but if you get cocky, you can get destroyed. That being said, it was a nice way to end the adventure.
Utopia 9 handles very well for a twin stick shooter. The aiming is fluid and reacts fairly quickly, the movement speed feels good, and the game has a colorful, comical feel to it. The soundtrack matches the feeling of being stuck on an alien planet, while still maintaining the game’s light-hearted tone. Every playthrough is different because of what weapons and tools will spawn in the chests, so there’s some replayability if you had fun the first time around. In the end, the tourist may want a vacation from this vacation, but you might be coming back for more.
Utopia 9 is a short but sweet twin stick shooter. The plot of the game is shallow but a fun reason to be fighting. The variety of weapons and tools are cool, and I was excited to see what I'd find next. Offers a fair challenge, but nothing that difficult.