I still really like Akasa. True, its fan base extends to me and about 3 other people on the planet – but let’s not let a small thing like that get us down shall we? Give it a whirl (I wish you could skip the tutorial though!) and make sure you turn on shadows and shiny ship. For a laugh, I’ve revived the hiscore table … population 1.

Below is the completely unsuccessful marketing blurb:

Uridium meets Xevious in this fast-paced retro shooter.

Only 20 minutes remain before nuclear Armageddon, and it is up to you and your acrobatic silver space craft to save the day!

Download (6.6Mb)

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

1500 Mhz CPU
512 MB RAM
32 MB Video card [ideally, an NVIDIA Ti4200 or better]
Sound card
Direct X 9.0+
60Mb of disk space

On a Windows PC

A bit less brief…

Akasa steps back in time by rendering 3d objects in a limited palette of bright colours to reproduce the ‘feel’ of 80’s C64 classics such as Impossible Mission, Uridium and Paradroid. And of course, in the best tradition of C64 gaming, the game- play itself is what Akasa is all about.

But be warned, Akasa is no push-over!

Just like the arcade games of the past, Akasa bountifully rewards persistence and skill but is quickly dismissive of the half-interested, casual attempt. Akasa thus sounds out a challenge to best of the old school gamers.

Game Features

• 15 colourful levels of fast-paced mayhem
• Real-time mult-source lighting and shadowing effects
• Many game secrets, including powerups and secret levels
• Two completely different “winning” gameplay strategies

The setting

The game setting of Akasa is at the concluding phase of a long war between the evil robotic empire of Samsara and the republic of humanity.

The Samsaran empire is doomed.
Their final act of defiance is to attempt to unravel the very fabric of the universe.
15 nuclear warheads have been placed at critical junctures within the space-time continuum.
In just 20 minutes, these warheads will be detonated, causing all as we know it to vanish.
The player’s task is to prevent this detonation by destroying each warhead before it can be armed.

Gameplay primarily occurs in the upper levels of the atmosphere of the home planet of Samsara.

Game Controls

Akasa is in the main, a 2 button game. Aside from the XY movement axis, there are 4 buttons required for complete ship control, but only 2 are strictly necessary to complete the game.

• Button 1: (Keyboard ‘C’ by default) – Fires the ship’s lasers. Most commonly used button and, due to the onboard auto-fire, is simply held either up or down, with no fast tapping required.
• Button 2: (Keyboard ‘X’ by default) – Fires the ship’s bombs. Bombs are then detonated either on impact, or by pressing Button 1.
• Button 3: (Keyboard ‘Z’ by default) – Forces the ship to tilt on its side. Allows the player to negotiate very tight spaces. Rarely required.
• Button 4: (Keyboard ‘Space’ by default) – Applies the ship’s brakes. This is useful when first learning the game, exploring tight spaces, or new wall-dense areas. Rarely required.

Akasa currently supports joystick, gamepad or keyboard control. Each control button can, of course, be remapped by the user. Akasa polls every connected game device each frame, meaning the player can switch controllers mid game without interruption.

Game keys

• ~ – switch to windowed mode
• F1 – music/on off
• F2 – frame rate
• F3 – shadows on/off
• F4 – options
• F5 – shiny ship
• F6 – toggle custom music
• T – trainer level
• C – fire
• X – bombs
• Z – waggle lock
• SPACE BAR – brakes
• ARROW KEYS – movement
• ESC – restart game
• SHIFT ESC – exit game

Movement

Akasa is a top down vertically scrolling “space’n ground” shooter. Movement is possible in X and Y directions, with X movement limited to screen width and Y movement as extensive as a given level allows. The player can backtrack from the end to the beginning of a level if they so desire.

The player

The player ship is fittingly named ‘The Swallow’ as movement is designed to be fast, fluid and acrobatic, in homage to Uridium’s ‘Manta’ ship.

Player starts with:

• 3 lives,
• 40 hull points (capable of absorbing around 10 laser hits),
• 5 bombs,
• 100 (out of 300) prana,
• lasers limited only by prana supply

Player dies if hull points fall below 0, or player hits an unbreakable deck structure such as a wall. Player becomes immobile if prana reaches 0. Game ends when all lives lost, the time limit expires, or all 15 warheads are destroyed.

The goal

The universe is 20 minutes from destruction. The task is to destroy all 15 warheads, 1 per level, before this time runs out.

The goal of each level is simple. Destroy the nuclear warhead, typically residing at the end of the level.

Akasa is by no means a mindless blasting game, however. A range of limiting gameplay factors add a strategic element to the game and are listed as follows.

1. Time management: The player has 20 minutes to complete the game. Once this time limit expires, the game is over regardless of number of lives left. This is a crucial element in the gameplay as it encourages the player to negotiate each level at the highest speeds possible, particularly towards the game’s end when time is almost out. Extra time credits can be collected in various ways throughout the game, in a manner that rewards exploration, trick flying and, ironically, time wasting via camping.

2. Resource management: prana – Player movement and firing consumes energy (prana), of which the player has a limited supply. To run out of prana is to lose movement and firing ability. Prana must be used and collected wisely, typically from the debris of destroyed enemy craft. Often, an entire squadron must be destroyed before a prana bonus is delivered.

3. Resource management: powerups – Prana collection is also the chief means by which a player can ‘powerup’, or increase in power. To powerup, the player must collect a full tank of prana. This prana is then converted to the next powerup level and the prana level is reset to 1/3 tank. As the best source of prana is Samsaran boss ships, this draws the player into combat with the most difficult opponents of the game, thereby wasting precious time. It is difficult, though not impossible to complete the game without powerups.

4. Resource management: bombs – The most powerful and versatile weapon in the player’s arsenal is the bomb. The player can only store 5 at a time, and thus needs to use them wisely – and indeed become proficient at collecting extra bombs scattered both on board Samsaran ships or on the level deck itself. Inspired by the arcade classic Xevious, bombs are the player’s only deliberate method of destroying objects significantly above or below the z=0 plane.

5. Level defences: the shield wall – Each warhead is heavily fortified by a spinning 2-layer shield wall. Both layers must be penetrated before the warhead can be destroyed. The shield wall draws its strength from 8 energy cubes scattered throughout the level. Destroying these energy cubes thus constitutes the player’s ongoing sub-goal as they fly through a level. The more cubes destroyed, the weaker the shield wall. Completely ignoring the cubes is possible, but makes the game much more difficult to complete.

6. Level defences: deck structures – In the tradition of the C64 classic, Uridium, the player must weave (often at high speeds) through both static and mobile deck structures to reach the warhead. There is thus a pattern-recognition/memorisation element to the game here.

7. Level defences: switches – A puzzle element is introduced to the game through switch-controlled mobile game elements, such as walls, powerups or energy cubes. Sometimes a hidden switch must be shot in order to lower a force field, or access a secret level, for example.

8. Level defences: turrets, bosses and Samsaran drones – Each level teams with ‘aggressive units’. Turrets are very effective at protecting the warhead, whilst the constant buzzing of Samsaran ships both threaten and distract the player from their goal.

Weaponry

The player has 4 ways in which to destroy objects within the game:

Lasers

Lasers auto-fire as standard, consume only prana and are not upgradeable

Bombs

Bombs fire either directly ahead of the player, or diagonally down into the screen. The latter option is only possible if the bombsight cross hairs are visible upon an object below the player. Bombs explode on impact OR as soon as the lasers are fired. This control of detonation time adds an extra level of skill and strategy to game and must be mastered in order to score highly. Bombs do not consume prana to fire.

Missiles

By either collecting enough prana or a missile powerup, the player gains Samsaran-seeking missiles as an extra weapon – for a limited time period. Missiles will fire concurrently and automatically with the lasers and are controlled by the same control key/button.

Ramming

The player can simply ram a Samsaran ship or ground defence unit (such as a turret). This costs hull points and is fatal if that rammed is stronger than the player (such as a wall).

2 Distinct Playing Styles.

An extra level of interest and long-term playability is added to Akasa through supporting 2 very different types of winning strategies, “rushing” and “camping”.

a) The player can “rush” each level, heading straight for the warhead and taking it out as quickly as possible.

b) The player can “camp” in a favourable place in the level and “farm/harvest” the bosses that swoop in to attack with ever increasing fervour as time passes. This strategy results in the highest score and the most powerups. It is more difficult, more dangerous and surprisingly seductive as the promise of extra time, score and powerups lures players into a battle that eventually becomes overwhelming.

Powerups

There are (at least) 14 powerup types present in the game:

1. Seeker: Causes powerups to home in to the player ship. The seeker is the most important powerup and crucial to success within the game.

2. Medipak: Restores the ship to full hull strength (40 points).

3. Prana: Adds 20 points of prana. Max prana is 300. A prana overflow spawns the next ship powerup.

4. Smart Bomb: Destroys all Samsarans currently on screen (very rare)

5. Invulnerability: 3 minutes of time as completely bullet proof OR absorbs approximately 100 hits, whichever comes first.

6. Extra Time: Extra 20 seconds in which to complete the game,

7. Extra Bomb: Only 5 bombs can be carried at a time

8. Extra Life: Capped at a maximum of 4 lives

9. Speed: Player flight speed and agility increased. Semi-malicious as this makes the ship faster, yet more prone to crashing.

10. Warp: Forces the player to accelerate to maximum possible speed. Can be malicious or beneficial depending on the circumstance. Can also be negated through the use of brakes and reverse thrust.

11. Clone: Spawns a complete second (clone) ship to fight by your side. This ship has identical powerup options to the Swallow.

12. Eject Bombs: Malicious and rare. Causes all your bombs to be ejected into space.

13. Shrink: Player ship shrinks to roughly ½ size for 3 minutes. Perfect for flying through very tight spaces.

14. Missiles: Samsaran seeking missiles spawn every few seconds for 100 seconds.

Collecting surplus prana results in powerups spawned in the following order: seeker, missiles, invulnerability, clone, clone seeker, clone missiles, clone invulnerability, extra life.

Samsarans

Inspired by the C64’s Impossible Mission, I strove to offer multiple personalities and abilities in the Samsaran attack craft. Each Samsaran has 4 different action types:

a) Way pointers – following a set path through the level, often looping to the beginning
b) Squatters – sit on a deck until you get close and then either become way pointers or attackers.
c) Attackers – home in on the player provided player is within detection radius
d) Patrollers – follow a waypoint path, attacking only if player is within detection radius

In addition to the differing action types, there are a number of different ship types, listed as follows.

1. Drone. The standard Samsaran. Normally travels in a squadron of at least five. Destroying an entire squadron generally, though not always, results in a prana powerup crate spawning.
2. Battle droid. Basically a drone with a turret head mount. Much more dangerous than a drone due to the highly effective firepower added by a portable turret.
3. Mamba. These fast attack craft swoop in at regular (and decreasing) intervals on an attack run. Inspired by Uridium’s ALED fighter. There are 3 mamba classes: Red, Green and Blue.
4. Boss. Bosses are battle droids on steroids. Bosses have 3 powerful attack methods: 1. Bombs (blue, much like the player bombs) 2. Player-seeking missiles and 3. Child spawning – releasing a squadron of baby Samsarans to add to the general mayhem.

Scoring

Akasa is very much a score-driven game. 1,000,000 points is awarded for completing the game, with a bonus 1,000 points per second spare. When a player passes a previous high, the score beaten floats down into the screen in-game. Fast, accurate shooting is rewarded with quick-shot and bull’s eye bonuses.

A coloured ‘alert’ system (inspired by Paradroid’s green/amber/red alert level) is in place and is displayed via the main score display colour. High alert levels (gained by shooting n aliens in m seconds) cause the score to continue increment as long as the alert level lasts. To add competitive interest, Akasa offers a best-of-the-world high score table and the ability to export/import another player’s high score table, via an encrypted high score file.

Game philosophy

From the outset, it was very important to me that the enemy (that which you destroy) was robotic, unfeeling and non-conscious. Hence, in accordance with Ahimsa, or the principle of non-violence and reverence of life – the player destroys much, but kills nothing throughout the game.

The game sinks its roots into the Eastern traditions, drawing upon both Buddhist and Yogic philosophy. The catch-line ‘Can you overcome Samsara’ is thus a clear double-entendre: Samsara is the evil robotic army, but it is also the delusory manifestation of material existence – the many-faced font of desire that snares us in its web of suffering. Akasa is a Hindu concept describing the primal material ‘stuff’ of existence. All that which we interact with on a physical level is composed of the Akasa, and energised by Prana. This explains the chosen labelling of the ship’s energy supply. Having said this, Akasa does not push any particular religion, philosophy or creed.