Title: Savant: Ascent REMIX
Developer: D-Pad Studio
Release Date: September 29, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: D-Pad Studio
Genre: Twin-Stick Shooter
Ten years ago, Savant: Ascent launched and found a decent following of players who enjoy twin-stick shooters and techno beats. Now, ten years later, Savant: Ascent REMIX is here for fans to really get the most out of this experience. It has been said this game began as a remake before the developer got carried away to make it a sequel, and this rings true from the very opening. The high degree of challenge with several new options on how to approach it breathes new life into this series that has me itching for more.
Savant: Ascent REMIX has you assume the role of the Alchemist after being cast to the bottom of his tower by an unknown enemy. The goal is simple: make it back up the tower and defeat whoever is waiting for you. It’s a simple premise, but it works in the context of a game that only takes time for its story in the opening and ending. There are a few cutscenes that take place between stages, but this experience is all about gameplay, which is perfectly fine because this game is very fun to play.
During gameplay, you have two platforms that you can move between. This allows you to avoid damage or get a better angle on an enemy, considering where the platforms are on the screen. After the introduction, you’ll be on two elevator shafts shooting up the tower at an incredible speed. Other movement actions include a jump and double jump to avoid damage. There were moments when I wished for a duck option, but that isn’t here. Still, movement is fast and responsive as you make your way through the levels, which is required to avoid the mass amounts of enemies that you’ll encounter.
At its core, Savant: Ascent REMIX is a twin-stick shooter. Throughout each level, you’ll take aim at the enemies that surround you and shoot at them. Your first shot acts as a burst that you can use to clear out a small group, but you also have a shotgun-like blast that depletes the on-screen gauge, which fills up over time. As a result, there’s a particular rhythm that derives from each of these mechanics coming together.
You essentially become hypnotized by the constant speed of traveling up the tower while taking aim at enemies. I began to strategize when to use my shotgun blast or when to just move to avoid damage. So much is going on on-screen that there are moments that may overwhelm the player, but there seems to always be an out or multiple ways to approach each difficult situation without taking too much damage.
On that, the challenge is quite high for this game, but there are optional difficulties. However, even Easy mode puts your skills to the test as it gives you more health, but the enemy patterns remain pretty similar, although they have lowered health. This allows you to practice your approach to the assent before going into the higher difficulties, where Hardcore Mode humbled me in seconds.
One interesting aspect of game design is how the developer introduces enemy concepts across each level. New enemy types appear, but you’re given a moment to understand their movement and attack patterns before more appear, and then they appear in groups of other enemies. The developer does a wonderful job here of allowing the player to teach themselves to tackle the challenging gameplay. This is further found when tougher enemies appear, and the camera zooms in on them to pause the action for a bit.
Boss encounters only up the challenge and require you to combine movement and shooting skills to get through them. They have multiple forms and, thankfully, a checkpoint right before in case you die, which you probably will. There are also checkpoints in the level, but dying forces you to out to the high score list, where you have the option to Retry. However, this process becomes way too long, and I wish there was a quick prompt after dying that asked you to retry or go to the leaderboards.
Still, the most significant aspect of this experience is the music. Savant has 36 tracks in this entry, which also act as collectibles found throughout the stages. The presentation matches the fast beats of the songs, and every track expertly showcases the insane action occurring on screen. This is also found in the graphics, which resemble the original game, but definitely show how much the developer has improved over the years because the animations and detail are pristine.
Savant: Ascent REMIX is an experience that is brief but impactful. Although you can likely clear the game in a few hours, there are plenty of reasons to return for a higher score or try your hand at the unlockable Survival Mode. If anything, I wish the game was longer, but what’s here provides instant gamer satisfaction to anyone who plays through it’s approachable, yet, high challenge and minimal controls.
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