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Monday, March 05, 2007
Ten of the best freeware arena shooters released in 2006 (roughly).
[Top 50 shmups page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, the entire list]

- Actual geometry wars clones can be found in this article.

1. NaaC
2. Invisible Vision
3. Tank Domination
4. The Design
5. Mu-cade
6. Ray-Hound
7. Zugya DX
8. Winged Gear
9. Super Blazing Vortex
10. Engage to Jabberwock

1. NaaC

NaaC is a pretty good Smash TV clone with all the action focused in one room for the entire game. Aliens will barge through walls from the top of the screen, then left and right. Fortunately better weapons occasionally appear out of thin air, although ammo conservation is vital since they run out pretty fast.

Name: NaaC
Developer: Bloody Monkey
Size: 10.5 MB
Download page: NaaC

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2. Invisible Vision

Invisible Vision is another excellent game from keim, developer of Nomltest FS and Sky Swimmers' Heaven. A departure from the rest of his efforts, it involves engaging sea battles with enemy submarines while avoiding mines and surviving the occasional boss encounters.

Wireframes are used to replicate the surroundings of a dark ocean. With careful observation, it's quite easy to detect enemy ships based on the ripples caused by their movements.

The arrow keys can be used to move your ship around. Controls can be slightly awkward to learn at first but the effort will be rewarded with an amazing gameplay experience. Press the Z key to launch a torpedo. Every missed shot costs three seconds, and the game is over when you run out of time.

If green is not your favorite color, there are two other executables to start the game in gray or blue.

Name: Invisible Vision
Developer: Kei Mesuda
Size: 1.79 MB
Direct download link: Click here

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3. Tank Domination

Tank Domination is a new release from DHC, an acclaimed Japanese freeware shmup developer. As the title suggests, your vehicle can move around and aim freely instead of being limited to one vertical direction. Hold the Z key to lock your aim and shoot at the same time.

Energy will only be replenished when all enemies shown on radar as red dots are destroyed. Your tank will explode with only one hit but three lives are given at the start of each game.

The version available for download features six short stages but does include four different difficulty levels to choose from.

Name: Tank Domination
Developer: DHC
Size: 2.86 MB
Direct download link: Click here

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4. The Design

The Design is a 2D shooter with some unique quirks. You control two dots on a design, which can shoot at the angle from one to the other. New figures on the design appears and you earn points by removing them.

Note that the enemies can only be killed while they're white. If you shoot an enemy while it's red, the bullet will turn against you. Aside from the normal shooting, you also have three upgrades that'll help you with getting a highscore.

Name: The Design
Developer: cactus
Size: 1.83 MB
Direct download link: Click here

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5. Mu-cade

Mu-cade is an arena shooter from Kenta Cho that plays quite differently from all his other efforts. A bit of Robotron: 2084 and Snake, your objective is to stay on the rectangular platform and knock other enemies off it by shooting at them repeatedly using the Z key.

For each enemy pushed off the platform, the tail of your ship grows longer and the score multiplier increases. A longer tail does complicate matters a little as it gets harder to stay on the platform. If the tail of your ship is over the edge, the weight will drag the rest of the ship with it as well.

Fortunately you only need to worry about the front portion of your ship. As long as this part of the ship stays on the platform, you can use the X key to blow up the entire tail and gain some additional firepower momentarily. You will lose the multiplier in the process though.

It gets increasingly harder to stay on the platform as time passes. An extra life is awarded for every 200,000 points earned, so it's important to refrain from using the X key too often unless necessary.

Not one of ABA's best works, but anything outside a top five placing will only incur the wrath of his many fans.

Name: Mu-cade
Developer: Kenta Cho
Size: 6.02 MB
Direct download link: Click here

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6. Ray-Hound

The latest release from Hizoka.T.Ohkubo, RAY-HOUND is an action game which requires no shooting from the player's part. Trapped in a room with enemies consisting of turrets, you can retaliate by clicking on the left mouse button to muster a shield and send their shots back at them. The other method is to move your ship towards the lasers rapidly to initiate a boost and repel the beams of destruction.

In the options menu, it is possible to adjust and increase the chances of boosting with quick mouse movements by lowering the figure. Press F11 or use the ALT and enter key combination to play in full screen mode.

A timer is always counting down, but you can increase it by destroying all enemies to complete the level. The gameplay system is pretty offbeat, since it can be rather hard to direct shots unless the player is adept at slinging projectiles.

It's not a favorite of mine but Hikware's effort did get plenty of press coverage, hence meriting it's rightful position in the sixth place on this list.

Name: Ray-Hound
Developer: Hikware
Size: 565 KB
Direct download link: Click here

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7. Zugya DX

Zugya DX is an excellent shooter from Chinchilla Softhouse that can be described as Robotron: 2084 in space. Arrow keys control the ship's movement, and your shot direction is locked when you hold down the X key. Pressing the C key will activate your plasma charge, which is basically a short moment of invincibility.

Your main targets are the space stations which you have to destroy by shooting at it's core. It won't be easy as they're usually protected by substations equipped with all sorts of defensive weapons. Some of the substations carry power-ups which you can collect to boost your spread shot.

When the game starts, click on the joypad tab, input patch and the largest button to configure default keyboard controls. Consists of fifty stages in total. Another old release, though a major version upgrade was posted on the web site one week before the start of 2006.

Name: Zugya DX
Developer: Chinchilla Softhouse
Size: 7.91 MB
Direct download link: Click here

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8. Winged Gear

Winged Gear is another superb freeware title from Japan that could be described as a mix of Smash TV and SHMUP-type gameplay elements. The game is essentially a top down shooter where you have to guide a ship from room to room full of enemies to shoot at.

You're only allowed to exit a room once it has been cleared of every single hostile unit. There's a time limit that makes matter difficult, but it is usually replenished when you enter a new room.

Special items can be collected to increases your ship's firepower for a short while or replenish your bomb supply. The developers have also thrown in a two player mode as an added bonus. A rather old title, though the web site does state that it's last update was in early 2006.

Name: Winged Gear
Developer: ZAP
Size: 9.56 MB
Direct download link: Click here

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9. Super Blazing Vortex

Super Blazing Vortex is Pug Fugly's take on the classic Space Invaders gameplay with a bit of a twist. The objective is to feed a vortex with space energy left behind by defeated alien ships, then proceeding to destroy the black hole itself by blasting asteroids into it.

A balance need to be struck when it comes to keeping the size of the vortex in check. More points are earned for a larger vortex, although that does attract more enemies bent on blowing up your ship. Not to mention that your perspective will be changed quite often due to the vortex's instability.

Name: Super Blazing Vortex
Developer: Pug Fugly Games
Size: 2.55 MB
Direct download link: Click here

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10. Engage to Jabberwock

The game is basically a combination of all the good stuff that made Smash TV and Zelda series fun. Engage to Jabberwock puts you in control of a character trapped in a labyrinth full of strange creatures, armed with some spells that will drain your mana when used.

Barely sneaking into the list due to maze and puzzle elements. If you're looking for action without the brainwork, just pick any of the notable mentions as a replacement instead.

Note: released as freeware on 14th of February, 2007.

Name: Engage to Jabberwock
Developer: Platine Dispositif
Size: 4.08 MB
Download page: Click here
Inverted Castle mirror: http://zenjohost.com/~hunty/platine/jabberwock.zip

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Top five Geometry Wars clones:
Grid Wars, Veck, Rainbow Wars, XWars, Grid Assault

Notable mentions: Area 2048, Base 2, Kill Your Television, Trouble in Cloudland (2007), Eraser (2007), Candycane (2007), Hold Off Red (2005)

Hall of Fame: Every Extend, Warning Forever, Gate 88, DUO


Anonymous Anonymous said at 3/06/2007 01:50:00 PM:  
I would have chosen Ambush in sector 9. That counts doesn't it?

Still awaiting Return to Sector 9. Shouldn't be much longer.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 3/06/2007 02:00:00 PM:  
It should be noted Jabberwock is now Banzaiware : everytime you prepare to launch the game, you have to yell "Banzai!" three times.
Blogger Tim said at 3/06/2007 02:03:00 PM:  
Yeah... tough choice, that. It was either SBV or Ambush. SBV is his most recent work (excluding The Pyramid, already on another list) hence it gets the vote. They're both really good, though. :D

And I was asked the same question in the last one hour - anonymous is correct, Jabberwock is freeware. ;)
Blogger gnome said at 3/06/2007 03:25:00 PM:  
Anonymous Anonymous said at 3/06/2007 04:09:00 PM:  
Aww man, I'm working on an arena shooter right now!
Should be done faaairly soon I imagine.
The catch? it features deadly old women ;)
Anonymous Anonymous said at 3/06/2007 11:45:00 PM:  
Zugya is awesome, but it's not a 2006 game. Zugya DX came out in 2001. It got a patch/update in 2005, but that's really pushing it. And, of course, the original is from like the mid-90s. But still great stuff in any form
Anonymous Anonymous said at 3/07/2007 09:54:00 AM:  
Wow, I really didn't expect to have any of my own games appear on this list. I haven't played most of the other games in there, but I really enjoyed Ray Hound. It did get a bit repetitive after a few hours, though (but that is a lot longer than I play most games).

I'll have to give the rest of them a go if I ever get some time to kill. I hate being a busy bee.

These lists are great! :D
Anonymous Anonymous said at 3/07/2007 01:30:00 PM:  
The Design, great game. Rayhound, too.

Thanks Tim ;)