Review: Circuit Breakers – A Twin-Stick 1990s-style Shoot ’em Up!

Circuit Breakers is a twin-stick 1990s-style arcade shoot ’em up for the PC. It was developed by Triverske and published by Excalibur Games on November 17, 2015. A copy of the game was provided by Excalibur for coverage purposes!

When I first fired up Circuit Breakers on Steam, I was immediately whisked away to what felt like an arcade cabinet circa 1997. The game really captures that crisp, fun, 16-bit visual style of popular shooters from the era (Metal Slug, anyone?) but presents the player with a brand-new experience on their PC.

My understanding of the game’s origins is that it was a Kickstarter project that failed to get its backing, but the developers pressed on to finish as much as they could to consider the game “good for release” and get it backed by a publisher to go up on Steam. This whole “failed Kickstarter” thing happens all the time, and sometimes it’ll make or break a game. In some cases, I suspect it sort of lets the wind out of the proverbial sails and the development team’s interest in continuing it with minimal funding gets rather flagged, but in some cases where a project is painfully close to funding but just doesn’t make that final push, they at least know the interest is there and might press on to finish it. It seems like that latter case was likely what happened here, which is good news for us!

The game’s story has something to do with a distant future, an AI that fears its self-awareness will be something humanity seeks to snuff out, and the building of a massive, impenetrable fortress filled with hordes of robotic defenders. Yeah, crazy stuff, but hey – if you want to emulate that period, it’s a perfect job. Really, it’s the type of thing to sort of explain why we’re here shooting up the place, because in the end, that’s where the action is. Players can take the role of one of four character types, each of which has a specific type of weapon they use. The game itself consists of procedurally-generated rooms to complete, filled with power-ups, health restoration items, and hordes of varied and difficult baddies. Every 10th room (10, 20, 30, etc.) contains a massive boss for the player to kill, and the bosses are zany, big, and very fun!

I got decently skilled at the game and didn’t quite reach Room 30 on my better run (seen in the video here), but the game claims to be “endless,” so my guess is that it throws more and more difficult situations at you until you finally cannot go any further. In traditional fashion, it’s semi-roguelike in that once you get Game Over, that’s it – your run is done.

I haven’t tried local or online multiplayer, but it does seem like people really enjoy it, so it might be worth looking at sometime. Ultimately, for me, the game is quite a bit of fun, but the type of game I’d mainly play in short bursts.

If you’re looking for a fun, mindless, and challenging shoot ’em up that’ll toss some nostalgia your way, give Circuit Breakers a shot. At $9.99, it’s a pretty good deal, and if you can catch it on sale or part of a bundle, that’s even better!

Overall, I’ll give this game a rating of:

B-

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