Clean Asia looks like a future prediction of shooters, if seen from some 80’s stoners’ viewpoint after playing Eliminator or Star Wars ’83. If you never really got on board the whole “textures” bandwagon, this game might be for you.
Clean Asia is a hypnotic shmup developed by Cactus, a single man from Sweden, as part of the Auto Fire 2007 competition. There are no textures: instead you have flashing, glowing vectors, like a stripped down, sensual neon/neo Tokyo. And how’s this for a story.. Eyes have taken it upon themselves to leave their heads, somehow get themselves to the moon, create weapons and start attacking select Asian nations – China, Korea and Thailand. There was no contingency for this (somehow) but luckily a couple of gifted Americans Have Got This. I’m just going to assume the developer was more concerned with creating a largely unique gaming experience than worrying about how eyes became sentient.
You get to save mankind via one of two ships (aka white dots): the Reflector and the Attractor. Both ships absorb the debris of other ships, similar to Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, except here the feature is the game’s primary component. With the Attractor (definitely the harder of the ships) you use a dash to smash into enemy ships and collect the debris, which in turn you use to hurl at them a second time. The Reflector has several weapons. You have a basic shooting cannon and shield, but also a charged weapon. Debris is automatically collected (for the Attractor you need to hold a button) and increases the power of your weapons. There’s also one big ejaculative release if you can’t hold on any longer. These powers come with some disadvantages. Your ship can be hard to keep track of when you have all this collected shrapnel orbiting you. Also, the game doesn’t save progress of completed areas, so you’ll just have to think of it as an arcade game (where you can’t insert more coins). The controls take some getting used to, especially the 4 buttons of the Reflector. And while the bullets aren’t coming at you at rail gun speed, I find myself dying all the same.
The game is also different in that you mostly progress from one unique enemy to the next – that is, no waves of the same old kamikaze pilots over and over. So, they’re kind of like mini bosses of sorts. Admittedly I only made it several enemies in before the eyeballs got the better of me.
When I first saw the game it looked familiar but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Now it hit me – those crazy little key generators (the flashier ones anyway) with the radioactive colours, jumping, flashing text and synthesized tunes. Take that any way you like, but that’s what I like about this game; it takes some assumptions about the genre but considers alternate possibilities – and to its merit they mostly work. This game is actually closer to an arcade game in terms of features and play time, but it’s the abstract design that’s the hook.
Cactus, aka Jonathan Söderström, is behind this and a stack of other experimental games that don’t always follow genre tropes. A few others I’d recommend of his are Burn the Trash and Fractal Fighters, both shooters. We are at the point where practically anybody can make a game, the most important prerequisite being your imagination (and of course time), and many are free. He, along with many other indie developers, is grabbing the building blocks from different sets and asking what if – and it’s exciting to see the results.
Download: Developer’s Website