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Video Game / Spheres of Chaos

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"You're going to be glad very soon that SoC doesn't really vacate from the Asteroids paradigm, because whilst the basic game is in the same world - visually, this has vacated the previous galaxy. This is the anti-asteroids. Whereas [Ed] Logg drew his space pure, flat and black—exquisitely cut with bright white—McLeod gives you all the colours. All at once. And then he cycles them." —review of Spheres of Chaos

Spheres of Chaos is a psychedelic Shoot 'Em Up by Iain McLeod, first released for the Acorn Archimedes in 1992, and later ported to Windows and Linux platforms.

Resembling a cross between Asteroids and an acid trip, Spheres of Chaos is an intense blast-everything game where the objective is to survive wave after wave of increasingly bizarre enemies; not just space rocks, but all manner of weird geometric foes with different behaviors. To deepen the chaos, random things will occasionally teleport in to mess things up, such as black holes, armed pursuit ships, self-replicating daisies, and more.

These days the game is free, and can be downloaded from the official website, or may be available in some Linux package managers.

This video game provides examples of:
  • Action Bomb: The little homing mines, which in a rare display of Action Bomb competence, actually explode before they reach you, timing their explosion so their momentum carries the shrapnel into you.
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  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield
  • Asteroids Monster: Most enemies in the game are these. The Spheres are closest to the original Asteroids, being simple floating balls that travel in straight lines and split into two when hit.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Reflectors are covered mostly in reflecting armor, but a single hit to their engine exhaust will take them out.
  • Collision Damage
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer
  • Combo Platter Powers: You can hold multiple powerups simultaneously, so Homing + Shells = homing shells! One powerup is called Random Mix, which gives you three powers at once but halves the power or duration of each.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The worst thing that happens when you die is that you lose your powerup, but that would only have lasted a few seconds anyway. You'll come back moments later and carry on blasting.
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  • Endless Game: As long as you have extra lives, the game carries on. If you get the right powerups, it's possible to become basically self sustaining and gain extra lives faster than you can lose them.
  • Every 10,000 Points: This is practically part of the game strategy, because no matter how good you are, you will die, and you need to be replenishing your extra lives as you play.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You
  • Explosive Breeder: Daisies can reproduce themselves. If you don't kill them as soon as they appear, expect to have a screenful shortly.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Bosses tend to be much easier than the normal levels because they're large and easy to hit, there's only one of them, and they tend to announce their arrival with a massive teleportation distortion, which gives you time to get ready to face them. If you've got a powerful weapon like Decay, you can actually time a shot to instantly annihilate the boss the moment it arrives.
  • Homing Projectile: The Homing powerup gives you these. Even cooler, if you fire off a load of these between levels, on the next level they instantly whoosh into all the enemies the moment they appear.
  • Invisibility: The Invisible powerup, which, bizarrely, also makes you intangible and immune to gravity.
  • King Mook: One of the bosses is a giant version of the Bug enemy.
  • Mercy Invincibility: When you respawn after death you're invincible (well, actually invisible, according to the game) for a few seconds. Often there are so many enemies around that this is the only time you'll be able to target anything properly. Generally this is a good time to take out a black hole (you're immune to harm and gravity) or to grab a power-up without worrying about smashing into an enemy.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: Although not technically melee combat, this is essentially the entire game. Also arguably Radial Ass Kicking, since the game's space is toroidal and thus you are always technically in the centre of a group of enemies.
  • Mutually Exclusive Powerups: Zap Shield (lets you kill enemies on collision) and Bounce (makes you bounce off enemies on collision) are mutually exclusive, and so are Attract and Repel for obvious reasons. When you have Attract, Repel is the worst thing you can get, as it immediately removes your invincibility while you're likely surrounded by enemies. All the other powerups can be used together.
  • Notice This: Powerups make a bell-like sound, cause the screen to flash and give off an explosion of twinkling sparkles when they appear. And believe me, you need those audio and visual cues.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Your ship, and even worse, there's only one enemy that has this same flaw. The rest are either more durable, have reflecting armour, or are Asteroids Monsters.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Bugs are the only regular enemy that can shoot, but since they always fire a slow projectile at your current position you can avoid them by keeping on the move.
  • Power Up Letdown: Some of the power-ups are nearly or totally useless.
    • Nothing - does nothing, although there seems to be a secret where this sometimes gives you 10 extra lives instead.
    • Recolour - recolours the enemies. That's all.
    • Stop - stops all enemies. Sounds useful? Pretty much every enemy that's not in its base form has thrusters or some form of propulsion, so this stops most enemies for a fraction of a second at best. It's only useful on the large, base forms of enemies, and you're just going to shoot and split them anyway.
  • Power-Up Magnet: Normally you have to catch power-ups, which can be difficult as you have to intercept them using reaction control in zero gravity. The Attract power-up creates a black hole around your ship which will pull powerups in.
  • Power Up Motif: Everything in the game makes an ambient sound while it's on screen. Power ups produce a faint tinkling sound.
  • Random Drop: Killing an enemy has a probability of generating a powerup (and you can change this probability in the options).
  • Random Event: The game calls them 'occasional things', and you can set their frequency in the options. The occasional things are usually enemies that teleport in unexpectedly and don't normally appear in levels.
  • Recursive Ammo: For a straight example, the Shells powerup, which causes projectiles to explode into five short-lived shots on impact. For a more unusual example, the Decay powerup, which mimics the behaviour of a nuclear chain reaction - it begins as a normal shot, but after a time this splits into two projectiles, which split into two more, etc. etc. etc, reducing the lifespan of each shot with each split. This is the most powerful weapon in the game, but it gets less effective the closer your enemies are, as the initial shot needs time to decay into many.
  • Respawn on the Spot
  • Score Multiplier: Probably the best power-up, as more points means extra lives, and extra lives are the most vital thing to have in the game.
  • Scoring Points
  • Smart Bomb: One of the powerups. It actually works a little differently than most smart bombs - rather than killing every enemy at once, it kills a number of enemies very quickly, one after the other. If every enemy on the level dies while the smart bomb still has power, the bomb can actually carry on into the next level - which will almost certainly shatter all the AsteroidsMonsters that you may have wanted to keep in one piece.
  • Spawn Broodling: Bosses have the ability to teleport enemies into the level if you shoot them.
  • Spread Shot: The 3-way power-up.
  • Stalked by the Bell: If you take too long on a level, enemies called Bugs begin teleporting in, which can home in on you and also shoot.
  • Swirly Energy Thingy: Black holes.
  • Tele-Frag: This can happen when you teleport onto an enemy, or, even worse, when an enemy teleports in directly on top of you.
  • Teleport Spam: the player's ship can do this, although it will inevitably end in Tele-Frag.
  • The Namesake: the game is presumably named for the Spheres, the first enemy that appears in game.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: the Every 10,000 Points mechanic means that a player who has survived for a long time will have gotten lots of extra lives and thus survive even longer. Worse than this, however, is an instability that can occur with the Attract powerup. Attract puts your ship inside a black hole and makes it invincible, which causes all nearby enemies to be sucked toward you. You can blow them up, which may generate more powerups, which, because of the black hole, will be sucked into you, giving you even more power to kill enemies. You may even get the Attract power again, prolonging the destruction. With some luck (and Multipliers), you can get into a situation where you're earning multiple extra lives per second and obliterating levels faster than you can even see them. The 2012 remake removes this problem by requiring higher scores the further you get.
  • Wrap Around