Inversus has all the qualities of a good local multiplayer game. It’s easy to learn, the matches are quick, and it has a fair amount of depth. It even has online play, a rarity for games like this, as well as a solid single-player mode. As far as feature sets go, Inversus pretty well-rounded. But with so many local multiplayer games coming out these days, you need a strong hook as well. In the case of Inversus, that hook is a rather simple but effective one.
Inversus is a game of opposites. Two teams of opposing colors (black and white) compete in a game of deathmatch. Each player starts with only six bullets, which can be fired in the four cardinal directions using the face buttons on the controller. Faster red bullets frequently spawn, along with a host of other power-ups like shields, but pursuing them can, and often will, lead to a swift death. Thus, it’s in your best interest to be frugal with your ammo. Of course, I say this, but every match I played almost always devolved into utter bedlam right from the get-go. Bullets fly across the field the second everyone gains control over their respective blocks, everyone trying to capture as much of the level for their team as possible before making the enemy their top priority.
Inversus is as much a game about territory as it is standard deathmatch. Each map is split evenly into two halves: one white, the other black. You can only move on tiles of the opposite color. So if you’re on the black team, you can only move on white tiles, and vice versa. Each bullet you fire flips the tiles so you can gain more ground and potentially corner the enemy team to dispatch them with greater ease.
On the first few maps you unlock, the process is pretty straightforward. Because most of the early maps have plenty of open space, matches can end in seconds with a few well-placed shots. On some of the later levels, however, which trade open clearings for tight, winding corridors, things get a bit more complicated. They can still be decided in a flash, but the limited space makes blind fire a less viable tactic. Parries (firing a bullet of your own just before the enemy’s hits you) and firing around corners (charged shots unleash three bullets at once, allowing you to shoot behind cover) shine in these levels, demonstrating some of the advanced techniques that lend the game depth.
The most interesting levels, and the ones that embody Inversus at its best, are those that wrap around on themselves. You know how in Pac-Man when you move through those tunnels leading off-screen how you’d end up on the other side of the board? Inversus uses that same trick – only instead of them acting as portals, it uses that trick to create duplicates of the players. Depending on where you and your opponents stand on certain maps, you can see yourselves performing the same actions in as many as six different spots on the screen. It doesn’t affect the action much – it is rather disorienting – but it’s a cool touch.
If multiplayer is out of the question, then the Arcade mode provides a fair amount of entertainment. In Arcade, you fend off a never-ending horde of red blocks in a test of endurance. They’re more threatening than the standard black or white stock because they capture any adjacent tiles as they close in on you. The goal is to attain the highest score possible by chaining kills together. You do this by waiting for the red blocks to assemble so you can take them all out with one shot, as they explode upon death. The number of maps is much smaller here than in the versus mode, but they’re just as wild. Watching bullets miss an enemy only to wrap back around and hit them never ceases to satisfy.
Still, while competing for the top spot on the leaderboards is fun, the multiplayer is the main attraction here. I wasn’t able to find many opponents online, but that could just be due to playing the game prior to release. All the matches I was able to partake in ran smoothly, though, nary a hint of lag in sight. Your best bet is probably to have some friends available to play with, for even with online play, the usual rule of local multiplayer game recommendations applies. If you have some folks to wrangle together, however, Inversus is sure to deliver a good time.