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Luckily, it isn't without its rewards. There's a real sense of achievement when you crack a level, or even when you just get past some bit that was holding you back. When most games throw you Achievement Points just for completing a level I'm inclined to mock, but here you feel like you richly deserve it - and anyone who gets the Achievements for completing the game with different characters and without using any credits should probably get a medal from Bill Gates. What's more, the formula is horrendously addictive. Just one more try and I'll crack this world and be on to the next, you'll cry. Ninety minutes late, you might just succeed.
And for once we have a Live Arcade game that isn't short on eye-candy. Omega Five gives you a pretty good idea what a high definition version of R-Type would have looked like, and at its best - with multiple laser beams strobing across the screen and huge, serpentine space-beasts circling your protagonist - it's a dazzling experience. Maybe the landscapes of the first level are a little metallic and sterile, but the game has plenty of ideas from there. The second level throws in lush jungle greenery and fully-reflective, rippling water to stunning effect. There's no question that the music and the sound effects are dated, but if Omega Five throws me back into the days of Thunderforce III but with infinitely better audio/visual quality, then I'm not sure that's such a bad thing.
In the end, it would have been nice had Omega Five been a slightly less hardcore shoot-em-up experience. The game throws in a couple more credits once you've been playing for over an hour, but an option to continue from the current level - while slashing the overall running time - would have made it so much more accessible to the mainstream gamer. The Achievements would have kept the real nutters coming back anyway. However, this is the sort of thing that Live Arcade was made for: a rather superficial, retro thrill machine, but one wrapped in next-gen graphics to die for.
Given the price Omega Five comes highly recommended. Recommended, that is, should you have some nostalgia for the great shooters of the past and the skills and patience to do the game justice. Be warned, however, that if the sight of the Game Over screen leaves you sobbing, then Omega Five is not for you.
A fierce reminder of what shoot-em-ups used to be like, clothed in some lovely next-generation clothing. It won't be for everyone, but Omega Five is well worth the price and the download.