Atomic Heist is a rogue-like twin-stick shooter developed by Live Aliens. You take the place of a pilot attempting to escape an alien ship with a stolen nuclear core from the species known as the Rhaokyns. The core is leaking radiation, forcing you to try and get out of there as soon as possible before it kills you. Along the way, you’ll have to fend off a multitude of enemy ships and traps.
Atomic Heist is available on Steam for $7.99 and on Xbox One for $10.99
Atomic Heist Release Trailer
The story is fairly simple. When you start up the game you are given a message that tells you the Rhaokyn battleship Kreegynn has taken over the space station Hyperion-Six. Through this, they have managed to gain access to the station's atomic impulse core. It is of utmost importance that the player steals back the core and prevents it from getting staying in alien hands
As you play you can collect records that give a bit more information on the backstory of the setting. For example, you learn that humanities first contact with aliens in this universe was with a species named the Delotians. Humans initially think they are trying to invade, but only after a going to war with the species did we learn that they were, in fact, running from the Rhaokyns.
The story is mostly in the background, which for a game like this is fine. Being more gameplay focused than story, if you want to learn o about the setting the info is there, and well written, but Atomic Heist doesn’t stop every few levels to spout exposition at the player.
Atomic Heist can be classified as a twin-stick shooter with rogue-like and RPG elements. As such, it has both the positive and negatives that come with the genre. Atomic Heist does a lot of small things right, but one or two major issues winded up having a significant effect on my ability to enjoy the game as a whole. This is a shame, as the things done right are done very well.
Let’s start with some of the positives of the game. First off, there is a large variation of weapons available to the player. While you have your standard machine gun weapon to start, you can pick up the missile and grenade launchers, plasma blasters that stun enemies, and specialty weapons with tracking or splinter shots. In addition, there are also different versions of each of these, such as balanced, accelerated, or strengthened variations. Weapons are also able to be upgraded to increase power and rate of fire. A nice feature they add in regards to the rate of fire upgrade is being able to adjust between the fire rates available for the weapons. This allows the player to avoid burning through ammo too quickly without having to go out of their way to avoid picking up the upgrades when they don’t need them.
Atomic Heist manages to avoid the problem a lot of other games have when it comes to weapon variety. While many games will offer a decent amount of weapons, a lot of them end up with one or two weapons that are actually useful, while the rest either don’t really work as intended, are outright worse than others, or are so niche in their usefulness they aren’t worth carrying around. With one or two exceptions, most of the weapons made available in Atomic Heist are consistently useful.
The game also gives players a fair amount of cosmetic upgrades. You can choose different character avatars and target reticles the player unlocks through playing the game. These don’t really have any effect on the actual gameplay but is nice to have as a bit of a vanity option.
While playing you can also unlock upgrades for your ship, such as a higher fire rate/power at the beginning of a run, as well as upgrades to health and radiation protection. You equip these upgrades at the start of the run, as opposed to collecting them throughout the level, with the starting ship having six slots available. The upgrades will fill up these slots, with the more powerful upgrades taking multiple slots.
These upgrades, alongside avatars and reticles, are unlocked by leveling up in game. From what I can tell, the experience is gained through killing enemies, but outside of the screen at the very beginning where the player can change their avatar and reticle, there’s no way to check on how much experience you have or how much you’re gaining.
The players’ health is affected by two factors. First, there’s the damage the player takes from enemies and level hazards. After taking damage the player's health will start to regen until it is full. The second factor is the radiation mechanic. The longer the player takes, the more radiation leaks into the ship. This will progressively lower your max health until it winds up killing you.
One thing the game does that annoys me to no end is having the HUD as an upgrade. The Hud displays your health and ammo, as well as how much radiation you’re taking. Without this, all you get is a vague warning saying low ammo or health, which can result in getting yourself stuck in a bad situation. It’s a complete waste of an upgrade slot, and I hate it when games do this.
The big issue I had gameplay wise was with the game's movement. To put it bluntly, the player's ship moves to fast to properly control. This can lead to a variety of issues that will wind up with the player dying and having to start all over again.
Trying to avoid traps or enemy projectiles with any form of precision nearly impossible, often times ramming directly into them. This isn’t helped by the fact that the game's levels will often put you in small confined spaces, bouncing off the wall back into a projectile. Often times at the very start of a level you’ll wind up being attacked by several enemies who happened to be spawned in the same place.
The only real way for the player to avoid taking unnecessary damage is to play as slow and meticulously as possible, using slight movements and hoping for the best. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if it weren’t for the radiation mechanic. This essentially puts a hard time limit on the player, constantly lowering their health the longer they take to clear the level.
It seems like the developer may have intended for the player to choose between fighting it out or dashing through enemies to reach the end of the level. But because of how hard it is to control the ship, as well as the number of damage enemies do, this isn’t a viable option. As such, it seems like luck is the only real major factor of being able to complete a run.
Graphics and Sound
Atomic Heist makes use of a 2D sci-fi art style. Effects on different weapons are nice and easily distinguishable, while enemy designs have a nice amount of variety that manages to stay consistent while also being distinguishable from one another. Enemies and pickups also avoid blending into the environment, which is always nice.
The one noticeable thing about the art came in the form of the player avatars. The art for them is by n means bad, with many of the alien and robotic avatars looking really nice. The noticeable element is how much they clash with the in-game art. They use a more realistic style as opposed to the more cartoon/flash style used in-game.
Sound wise the game is fine. There’s nice enough feedback when you hit enemies, as well as clear sound indications when you pick up upgrades. The music matches the sci-fi theme of the game, but otherwise isn’t anything special. There is also some voice acting in the game, but there’s so little it’s almost not worth mentioning.
Atomic Heist has a lot going for it. Decent and consistent weapon variety, a nice art style, and a fairly interesting and well-written backstory are all positives that help add to the game. But despite this, the issues with the movement and radiation mechanic severely hurt the overall experience. For people who are fans of the genre, you might be interested in trying this out, but for most people, the uncontrollable nature of the player movement is going to be a huge turn-off.
|+ Nice weapon variety||– Movement is super hard to control|
|+ Interesting Backstory||– Radiation mechanic forces player to take unnecessary damage|
|– Avatar art clashes with the in-game art|