As an old fool, I sometimes like to kick it old school. Which is why, despite some seriously stupid problems, I actually really enjoyed Project Root, an old school, top down, arcadey, third-person sci-fi shooter made by OPQAm for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.
In the future, The Prometheus Corporation are the biggest energy provider. Unfortunately, the company and its CEO, Demetrio Watts, put profits over people…and you’re one of those people. Which is why you’ve taken to the skies in an F-72 Zonda aircraft and are shooting an endless stream of bombs and bullets at Prometheus’ installations, as well as the tanks, missile batteries, and aircraft they’ve bought to defend them.
At its core, Project Root is a simple, third-person shooter. Played from an aerial perspective, you use one trigger to shoot an endless stream of missiles, the other to lob an unlimited number of bombs, and the right bumper or square button to deploy the swarming missiles, anti-defense pulse, or laser beam you picked up after these power-ups were dropped by a destroyed enemy. Though you can also sometimes get power-ups that repair your battered ship or give your shields a boost.
Aiding you in all this warfare is the F-72 itself, a rather nimble, hovering ship that kind of feels like a peppy helicopter or VTOL, as well as the game’s equally intuitive and responsive controls. Which is real handy, given that the enemy’s aircraft is just as spry as yours, and almost as numerous as your ammo. Good thing someone built your ship with the ability to use both your machine guns and bomb launchers at the same time.
Which brings up one of a handful of issues with Project Root that some people, especially older gamers and fans of old school games, might have a problem with. First, there’s your ship’s ability to bomb and shoot at the same time; some might feel that if you had to pick one, it would add some challenge and strategy to the game. Those same people might take issue with the fact that nothing happens if your ship collides with an enemy in mid-air. Personally, neither of these things bugged me, but I can see where they might annoy other people.
On the flipside, hardcore gamers will appreciate how, when you lose all your ships in Project Root, you have to start a mission over from the beginning. And that’s even if you play this on “Easy” instead of “Regular” or “Hard” (I checked). This, however, did bug me, as I wished there were mid-mission checkpoints, especially since most missions are really long.
What also bugged me were Project Root’s rather obvious, silly, easily avoided problems. For starters, the game is, at times, as low-rent as its name. While the graphics have an old school appeal, the story is told through a series of static comic book-style panels that look like they were cribbed from a bad mid-’90s graphic novel.
Even worse, in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, the text in these story panels is so small that it’s impossible to read if you sit at a reasonable distance from your television. This, combined with the fact that this text also isn’t voiced, means that you sometimes don’t know what you’re supposed to do. Early in the second mission, for instance, you’re supposed to escort a vehicle from point A to point B. But because I couldn’t read the dialog, I didn’t figure this out until I had already spent a minute dropping a constant stream of bombs on the truck. Later on, one mission had a timer counting down, but since I wasn’t sure why, I failed the mission.
Granted, there is a green arrow that floats near your ship, telling you where to go to complete your main mission. But since it’s such a slight shade of green, and the backgrounds are also often green, this arrow is also hard to see.
The text in Project Root is also tiny and unreadable when you go through the initial training mission. Good thing they also include pictures, and that the controls are pretty simple. Also, while the text issue is slightly better on the Vita version, it’s still not as good as it should be.
Project Roots also has some odd audio issues. First off, your ship doesn’t make any noise when it moves or is just hovering. Also, the sound effects for your machine guns are kind of flat, while small ships don’t explode with a “boom” as much as they just kind of “pop.”
As irritating as those aforementioned issues may be, though, they don’t ruin or even diminish the fun of Project Root much, if at all. Especially since the game is only $9.99 (or even less, depending on when you read this). If anything, thanks to its smooth controls, variety, and challenge, and it’s , this is weirdly the best helicopter game in a really long time…and there’s no helicopter in it. Instead, it’s a futuristic aircraft, and this is a fun and frantic old school shooter, one that makes this trigger happy old fool quite happy.