Anyway, the point I was trying to make before getting distracted by Ruby’s incongruous lingerie is that you need to keep upgrading your weapons by blasting away special floating canisters that break apart to reveal fearsome power-ups. Our heroine kicks off with a laser beam, while the rather less appealing hero begins with some kind of flamethrower. By upgrading Ruby you can move up to a range of spectacular power-beams, while upgrading Tempest gives you a selection of weird blobby weapons that do, at least, show off some neat fluid rendering effects. The fact that his gun is waist-mounted can mean that Tempest’s fluid-based attacks themselves look a little odd – this might be the first game I can think of to hint at what it might be like to widdle over a colossal rampaging robot from a great height. Still, I digress. The important thing is that the further you go on and the more power-ups you collect, the more damage you mete out and the less you have to worry about the millions of ill-wishers making their way towards you. So far, so Nemesis. Well, except with skimpy undies and disconcerting liquid emissions.
However, Omega Five throws in a few more wrinkles. Both characters can use a smart bomb by clicking the left trigger, while hitting the left or right bumper triggers a field that turns incoming bullets into handy tokens that you can save up towards extra smart bombs (you also get these for every baddie blasted to bits). Each character also has a unique attack on the right trigger. Ruby has a weird satellite module which latches on to enemies and seems to drain their energy while she fires at them. Tempest, meanwhile, can access alternate fire modes for his weapons, switching – for example – between a three-way stream and a longer-range single jet.
And you’ll need all these weapons and all these options, because Omega Five doesn’t exactly play by the established 2D rules when it comes to throwing enemies at you. Enormous monster robots and mine-dropping gunships will sneak their way from the background into the foreground and hit you from behind when you least expect it. Streams of drones will start to appear from the left, bottom and top of the screen, usually when you’re sitting in exactly the wrong place.
All of this combines to make Omega Five a rather difficult game with a mountainous learning curve. Put a rapidly draining energy gauge together with a meagre three credits and it’s a challenge just to reach the end of the first stage, let alone crack it. As in the old days, your chances of cracking a level on your first attempt are minimal. Instead, you have to learn the attack patterns and work out when it’s best to use your various defensive and offensive capabilities. With no saves and no continues once you run out of credits, you chip away steadily at the game, getting a little further each time while perfecting your technique in the earlier levels. If all of this sounds like hard work, then it can be.