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Black and white and bonkers all over: You should be playing Inversus

A fast-paced arcade shooter with elegant, minimal design from top to bottom. 

Fun. Chaos. Challenge. Risking your friendships in the name of gaming glory. 

I first noticed Inversus at the IndieCade booth during this year’s E3. And I mostly noticed it because, from across the room, the game looked like a bizarre crossword puzzle. But there will be no high-brow wordplay or erudite trivia queries in Inversus. Quite the opposite.  

This game is all about high-speed bonkers fun.

It’s a minimal shooter, played in 1-vs-1 or 2-vs-2 matches in the Versus mode. You’re trying to destroy all opponents, but within a few clever constraints. Each side can only move on one color of tiles, and the tiles will flip to your team’s color when you shoot down that row or column. You’re also limited to five bullets at a time, and although they do reload over a few seconds, you still need to strategize where and when you fire. In a game this zippy, a few seconds means the margin between victory and defeat.

This type of easy-to-learn, hard-to-master local co-op game is one of my favorites to bust out at parties. People who’ve never held a controller can be competitive right away, even against lifelong gamers, because smart thinking will give you an edge more than twitchy reflexes. And it doesn’t take long to start getting intense about Inversus matches, especially when you’re sitting right next to the other players. It’s instant bonding. Or instant creation of enemies.

But couch co-op (and conflict) isn’t the only way to play. Hypersect, the one-man studio of Ryan Juckett, has wisely offered both local and online options. The game is still new and small enough that getting paired up might take a little time, but the wait is worthwhile if you want to go in on the multiplayer but don’t have a friend around to yell at, er, join you.

I assumed the game would shine the most in multiplayer Versus modes, and they are indeed glorious. But I had just as much fun going it alone in Arcade mode. It’s diabolically hard. You have to play several matches to unlock each map, because they ramp up in challenge. Instead of just the little dice-shaped opponents, you’ll also go up against red drones that don’t shoot, but change the color of the board as they drift across it. Double the mayhem by trying the two-player Arcade option; just don’t be surprised if you end up yelling at your teammate a fair amount.

As if killer gameplay wasn’t enough, Inversus is also a standout in map design. At first glance, you wouldn’t think the layout would impact matches too much, but it adds a considerable degree of difficulty to each mode. Especially in the Arcade, just the small shift from a large square map to a slightly smaller circle ramped up the challenge by changing how you could chain together kills and ever so slightly limiting your mobility. Small details add up to big differences, and that careful attention to little things are what really set this game apart.

Inversus is simple enough to pick up and enjoy for a few matches. But the more time you spend with it, the more nuance and strategy you can bring to the game. Even after just 10 minutes in the arcade mode, I had made adjustments in my approach and my top score kept rising as I did. It’s a game that can be quick snack or a full meal, and is equally delicious in both cases.

You Should Be Playing celebrates innovative, unexpected games that belong on your radar, with a new game every Monday at 0900 PST / 1700 GMT. Follow @gamesradar on Twitter for updates.

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