In Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor and Helldivers 2, the vital spirit of twin-stick shooters lives on

March 1, 2024
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There’s a certain kind of game that has you running in circles. This isn’t because it’s poorly designed or lacking waypoints. It’s because it’s frantic, endlessly generous, and loves to throw horrible things in your path. It’s unfair in the very best way. It’s an arcade game. Specifically, it’s a twin-stick.

All twin-stick shooters bow at the altar of running in circles, often the altar of running backwards in circles. Now I am a grown-up and know a little of the mysteries of baking, I often think of Robotron and its glorious ilk as being Churning Games. You’re in the kitchen, spoon and bowl in hand, and you’re getting the air into that egg mixture.

Going in circles isn’t just the optimal way to play something like Robotron, it’s also the most beautiful way to play. When you’re going in circles you get to see the emergent heart beating at the centre of everything. Different enemy types, obeying slightly different rules of engagement, break into separate patterns. Grunts flock together into a bait ball. Brains seek out family members. Enforcers work their way to the corners. Hulks just hulk about, the big idiots.

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