Intake
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Intake is a great retro-style arcade shooter that challenges players to blast luminescent pills using the correct colored shots. It’s a deceptively simple title but can become very addictive after a few rounds. The inclusion of power-ups and special challenge levels every few rounds also keeps the game unpredictable. It’s a pity that the soundtrack only features five tunes, but the gameplay is solid, and chasing high scores is a real adrenaline rush.

Gameplay: Straightforward to play, but very challenging and quite addictive.

Graphics: Relatively simple, but very stylish.

Sound: The soundtrack is great, but there are only five tunes

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Intake

Developer: Cipher Prime Studios | Publisher: Cipher Prime Studios | Release Date: 2013 | Genre: Action / Arcade / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

It’s no secret that there are too many games out there that are bloated and weighed down with unnecessary elements. Typically, the only purpose for most of these bolted on elements are just to tick a few more boxes on a list of features. This makes it all the more refreshing to uncover games that still offer a pure, simple, yet entertaining experience. Intake is one of these titles, although at first glance it almost appears to be too simple.

The developers describe Intake as the love child of Dr. Mario and Ikaruga and while we agree we would probably include Missile Command in that mix too. It is in essence an arcade shooter where pills rain down from the top of the screen and players have to blow them to bits before they reach the bottom. To make things a little more challenging the pills always come in two different colors and to maintain a combo while shooting them your cursor has to be the same color as the pill that you are targeting. Incidentally, the color of your cursor also designates the color of your shield at the bottom of the screen. Your shield absorbs all pills of the same color although they won’t contribute towards the amount required to complete the level.

Intake obviously speeds things up the further you get in the game, but it also throws a few other curve-balls at players. These come in the form of challenge levels that pop up every few rounds. There are four of these in total and they range from flooding your screen with pills to throwing down fewer pills than normal but at much higher velocity. Then there are the “minefields” where monochrome pills have to be avoided because if you shoot then you get flashbanged. Finally, the “reaction” levels feature exploding pills for extra mayhem. Once these challenge levels are discovered in the main game they can also be tackled in a separate game mode.

Shooting luminescent pills are fun, but along with the thrill of chasing a high score you’ll also want to earn “milligrams” to spend in the “drugshop.” These generally come from the tablets that appear between levels and from the bonus round after you lose your last life and “overdose.” The drugstore features some nice goodies, such as extra colors and additional music tracks, but it’s the power-ups that are the most useful.

Once you purchase a power-up they will begin appearing in the game, provided that you equip them from the drugstore. The power-ups include lightning that can zap all the pills onscreen, slow-motion to give you some breathing room while shooting pills, and “embiggen” which makes the pills huge so that they are easier to hit. Be careful though as some of the power-ups can actually work against you, so for example the last thing you want is gigantic pills during a flood level. As you continue to earn more milligrams you can use them to upgrade the power-ups further, but the prices quickly skyrocket.

For visuals Cipher Prime Studios have gone for a sensory overload look and feel. Intake opens with the classic “Winner’s Don’t Use Drugs” arcade screen and from there on out it’s a glowing neon assault on the eyes. This can make it difficult to see what’s going on at times, but that’s part of the challenge. It is really great to see that the game also features colorblind modes for players with deuteranopia, protanopia, and tritanopia, which is something that is often overlooked in color based games like this. In keeping with the whole arcade style with the game it also uses a portrait resolution with letterboxes on the side. This makes sense because the game would have played a lot differently if it filled the entire screen. Intake does feature “Gartnervision” which adds some visual effects to the letterboxes, but generally, all your attention will be focused on the action in the middle of the screen.

Keeping with the whole retro style of the game and the drug theme Intake features a dubstep soundtrack. Only one track is available initially, but four more can be unlocked from the drugstore. All five tracks sound really great, but we would have loved a few more. Intake does not offer an in-game way to play your own music, but as the volume and sound effects can be adjusted independently, it’s easy enough to play your songs in the background. The controls are very straightforward, but this is definitely a game where you need quick reflexes to succeed. The movement of your cursor is handled via your mouse, but we found it easier to shoot and change colors using a keyboard. There’s nothing preventing players from doing everything with a mouse though. It’s also handy that the mouse speed can be adjusted in-game, so there’s no need to mess around with the DPI settings of your mouse itself.

Intake is not an easy game, but it is very addictive and it definitely has that “just one more go” factor. Initially, players might struggle to last more than a few levels, but after a bit of practice and unlocking power-ups, it’s easier to progress further. The game also sets checkpoints at levels 25,50 and 75, so once players reach these they can be set as the new starting point for future playthroughs. Intake is undeniably an entertaining game, but the whole look and style might not be to everyone’s liking. It’s a pity that there is no demo available for it as it’s one of those games you need to experience for yourself to really understand how it plays. It should appeal to fans of old-school arcade games as well as anyone that can appreciate games that are simple to play, but hard to master.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP or Later
  • Processor: 2.2 GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia 8600M or better
  • Storage: 450 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: We recommend some great headphones or a nice speaker set.
  • OS: OS X 10.7 Lion or Later
  • Processor: 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia 8600M or better
  • Storage: 450 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: We recommend some great headphones or a nice speaker set.

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