Fireball SE is a Blast
Fireball SE has all of the trappings of a top-down twin-stick shooter. There’s a relatively tight arena, tons of enemies occupying that arena who are trying to hunt you down, collectibles to pick up, and a wave-based progression system. It doesn’t take long for the main difference to show, however. In this game, you’re not able to shoot or directly attack in any way. Instead, you have to lead enemies into mines that will take them out in an explosive blast.
This kind of gameplay isn’t entirely without precedent in the genre. The seminal Geometry Wars, for example, tasked players with the challenge of surviving a set amount of time without shooting in order to earn a special Pacifist achivement. That said, there’s a difference between trying not to shoot and not being capable of shooting. In Fireball SE, you have no choice but to learn how to dodge for dear life.
The mines that you can use to take out enemies are plentiful and constantly respawn, so it’s not as though you have no way to thin out the packs of attackers on your tail. The key thing is that this means of defense is not entirely on your terms. You have to move to where the mines are. You’re constantly being forced out of your comfort zone and need to learn how to thread the needle to stay safe. Sticking to the walls or corners simply isn’t an option here, and that’s where the thrill of Fireball SE comes in.
Initially, this is an alien feeling. After some time, however, you start to learn how to lead the enemies around and herd them into large groups that can be destroyed in one good blast in order to rack up a huge score. The rewards for such feats go beyond mere points, as well. If you can hit a combo of 50 or higher, you’ll create a special Supernova item that you can detonate at your leisure by touching it. It generates a huge explosion that should help you deal with any overwhelming swarms on your tail.
You do have one extra tool in your arsenal: the Meltdown. By using this ability, you’ll slow down time, allowing you to make quick escapes or fine maneuvers that would ordinarily be quite difficult to pull off. Its use is limited by a meter you can refill by collecting items dropped by defeated enemies, so you can’t abuse it. You get a constant enough supply that you don’t have to stress about saving it only for emergencies, though.
Fireball SE features three different modes that demand slightly different strategies. The standard Waves Mode has you trying to defeat a set number of enemies, pushing you towards cautious yet steady destruction. Countdown Mode tasks you with getting as high a score as you can within a three-minute time limit, encouraging you to take risks in order to earn massive amounts of points. Survival Mode throws an endless number of enemies at you, so you’ll want to play it safe where you can. Cycling through these modes shows just how much variety can come from the game’s simple yet satisfying gameplay.
While being relatively helpless can be uncomfortable at first, Fireball SE ends up evoking similar feelings to classic chase-em-up games like Pac-Man. You’ll spend much of your time being pursued, but you’ll always have the chance to turn the tables in spectacular fashion. It’s a novel take in a genre generally known for more conventional action. That it’s all wrapped up in the usual Radiangames style certainly doesn’t hurt.