Enemy Mind breathes new life into the shoot-em-up genre with a clever twist to the formula. In the midst of an intergalactic war between humans and squid-like aliens, you play a formless psychic entity capable of taking over ships from either side. In battle, you jump constantly between enemies, adapting quickly to the distinct weaponry and abilities of each vessel and then abandoning them as their health and ammo run out.
Gameplay is at once frantic and strategic – staying with any one ship for too long is suicide, so you’re always evaluating who your next host will be. Sometimes you need something small and fast; sometimes you need the biggest gun you can get. Later encounters become almost puzzle-like, forcing you to consider not only the ships you use, but how you’ll use their limited resources, and the order you’ll jump through them in. Despite your god-like power, it’s certainly not easy.
As with many games in this genre, Enemy Mind goes for a retro feel, with chunky pixel graphics and a catchy chiptune soundtrack. The story, however, isn’t the throwaway nonsense you’d expect. It’s a smart sci-fi tale, told subtly – in between levels, you dip into the memories of those you’ve possessed, allowing you to piece together the backstory of the war and your place in it without the game having to drown you in exposition.
Some will be disappointed, however, by Enemy Mind’s short length. At only two hours, it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome, but I feel it misses out on really exploring the possibilities of its central gimmick. There’s decent reason to replay at least, with high score leaderboards, and changes to the story depending on whether your playstyle favours human or alien ships.
Enemy Mind’s refreshing and original gameplay should appeal to hardcore fans of the genre and the totally uninitiated alike – but admittedly it would have been nice to see a little more meat on these bones.