Out now for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, Many Faces by Eastasiasoft is a budget twin-stick shooter with retro arcade influences. We tested the PlayStation 4 version.
As with many arcade classics, levels in Many Faces fit on a single screen, and the objective is simple in each and every one of them: take out the enemies that fly around you without getting hurt by them or their bullets. Every fourth level is a boss fight, and you face the ‘ultimate baddie’ in level 17. By this very nature, Many Faces is the type of game you play in short bursts, and how long a playthrough lasts depends on an interesting mechanic involving headgear.
When you complete a level by taking down its last bad guy, a treasure chest will drop. Each chest contains a special hat or helmet, imbued with unique powers. Some will allow you to fire through platforms, making it easier to hit enemies while staying safe. Another will give you a flamethrower, and yet another will shoot bubbles that trap enemies inside of them. There’s a big difference in how useful these helmets are though, and some are actually detrimental to your chances of success.
For instance, one helmet dropped my life bar back to just one heart, and the ‘bubble helmet’ may have trapped enemies in bubbles, but there was no way for me to kill them after that – and no, your Bubble Bobble tactics won’t work. In my experience, if you get a strong helmet, stick with it and leave any new helmet just sitting there – it’s a better tactic than switching helmets after every level. Speaking of helmets, you can evade enemy fire by rolling, but rolling will also make you drop your current helmet.
Visually, Many Faces resembles something you might have found in an arcade back in the mid eighties, where things like ‘wireframes’ and ‘vector graphics’ were state of the art. The game derives its title from the fact that the enemies you fight all resemble faces – right down to the large boss characters that you face. Which levels and bosses you encounter on each run will vary as the selection is randomly generated, but while bosses require their own tactics most of the regular levels play out more or less the same (as long as you avoid the spikes at the bottom).
You’ll most likely clear the trophy list in Many Faces within the hour – possibly much less if you get lucky enough with the helmets. You can ramp up the difficulty level to give yourself more of a challenge though, which along with the different helmets you can try adds some replay value. This will mostly be one for trophy collectors though, since the gameplay itself is fairly unremarkable – as are the visuals. There retro-flavored music is nice though, especially if you’re fond of classic 8-bit soundtracks. There are better twin stick shooters out there with a lot more content, and it’s a shame this isn’t a cross-platform release with a Vita version – it would have been a good fit with its short gameplay sessions.