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It's rare that I go back and replay games. It's more a matter of time than anything else: there are just so many games out there, I'd rather be checking out something new than give something a second go. Everyday Shooter is the exception to that. It's like comfort food. It's a game that I can pick up, play for a few minutes or a few hours, and feel like I've gotten something out of the experience.
Destruction becomes creativity
Mechanically, Everyday Shooter isn't particularly innovative. It's a twin stick shooter in the mold of Geometry Wars, so you use one stick to control your character — nothing more than a dot, really — while the other is used to fire in all directions. Enemies swarm at you and you can collect little glowing bits after they die, which are used to unlock extra content and features. This may all sound very familiar, but Everyday Shooter shows its uniqueness when you fire your first shot and hear the strum of a guitar. Music in the game is procedurally generated, so as you fire bullets and destroy enemies, you're actually making songs. Destruction becomes creativity. This, coupled with the game's psychedelic visuals, turns what should be an ordinary arcade shooter into an entirely unique audio and visual experience, one where the sound is intimately tied to the gameplay.
Creator Jonathan Mak, who developed the game — including the music — singlehandedly, describes the experience as "an album of games exploring the expressive power of abstract shooters." And it really does feel like an album, with a series of levels that stand up on their own, but are stronger as a whole. Both the art and sound change dramatically in each stage, while the game also throws new and surprising game elements at you as you progress. Playing the game from beginning to end is difficult but immensely satisfying.
Everyday Shooter's rough edges give it more character
Everyday Shooter's follow-up, Sound Shapes, is a more polished game, and one that benefitted from a larger development team. It also includes music from known, talented artists like Beck, Deadmau5, Jim Guthrie, and I Am Robot and Proud. But while it's technically more impressive, Sound Shapes hasn't quite stuck with me the way Everyday Shooter has. Both have an album-like structure and marry game mechanics with music in a satisfying and often surprising ways. But maybe it's the singular vision of Everyday Shooter that makes it so sticky. Sound Shapes is maybe a little too perfect, while Everyday Shooter's rough edges give it more character. Whatever it is, just hearing those first few notes makes me want to play it, even if just for a little bit. Like albums from my youth, it brings me back to a very specific point in my life like few other things can.
Everyday Shooter debuted on the PlayStation 3, but has since been released on both Steam and the PSP, so it's relatively easy to get a hold of. And its abstract nature means that it doesn't feel dated today, six years after it was first released. Even as twin stick shooters have reached a saturation point on virtually all platforms, whether it's a phone or a console, Everyday Shooter still feels fresh and engaging, both in terms of how it plays and how it looks and sounds. It's a game that you can pick up for the first time and still enjoy it. And if you haven't played it in a few years, you can slip right back in with ease, like throwing on your favorite album.