During the great shooter explosion of the 90s a game had to do something different to stand out. Whether it was a new play mechanic, unique weapons, or employing new technology, you needed an edge to get noticed. As someone who was a fan of the genre but didn’t actively seek out shooters even I noticed this. BioMetal could have been one in a long line of generic space shooters but had one thing going for it: a killer soundtrack. The music, provided by 2Unlimited is pretty cool but does the rest of the game live up to its soundtrack?
BioMetal employs a unique weapon called the GAM as its central mechanic. When activated the GAM forms a shield of rotating orbs and slowly drains its meter. The GAM can absorb most enemy fire but won’t protect against head on collisions. It has two further uses. It can be sent out as a projectile in multiple directions and damages enemies on its way back as well. Or it can be projected as a circular wave that increases in size which isn’t as useful. Deactivating it will start a recharge that is faster than normal but slow enough to make you sweat a little. Managing the GAM is crucial to survival and part of what makes the game fun.
Outside of the GAM secondary weapons are few in number. There are three missile options although two of them are useless. Straight missiles fire in a….straight line. Angled missiles cover the top and bottom of the screen. The only worthwhile choice is homing missiles which trade power for tracking. Your main weapon choices are similarly limited. The laser is the most powerful and while small at first grows larger and passes through walls. The V-shot is a spread gun that increases its radius with more power. The Wave beam is exactly what the name suggests except here it also fires backwards as it increases in level.
There have been plenty of games that gone on to greatness with less. My problem with BioMetal is that all of its weapons lack power. Initially it isn’t an issue as most enemies will go down in a few hits. But by stage three when larger ships and creatures comprise the enemy roster it becomes noticeable immediately. Regardless of weapon everything takes too long to die. The laser comes the closest but its single shot is too slow to keep up. The GAM helps somewhat but you can’t rely on it all the time.
BioMetal is already a difficult game and its lacking weapons make it worse. By stage three there is a sharp spike in difficulty. The weak little aliens give way to larger creatures that appear in groups and are aggressive in their attacks. It comes out of left field and don’t be surprised if you lose a few lives in seconds. It only gets rougher from there. With such weak weapons you’ll have to rely on the GAM to clear the screen but that isn’t a viable strategy. You need the GAM to kill enemies but also for protection. The balance is all out of whack and brings the game down as a result.
What makes this imbalance so bad is that it screws up the game’s flow. BioMetal is faster paced than most SNES shooters and suffers in a few ways. There are far more enemies and bullets onscreen than the system can handle leading to some awful slowdown. That slowdown affects movement and more importantly the GAM, leaving you vulnerable at critical moments. If they had toned it down this would still have been intense while maintaining performance. While it isn’t anything new there are some awesome environments and the enemy designs are original. Too bad you won’t get to enjoy them as much as you should.
Speaking of which I really like the art direction. BioMetal manages to avoid looking similar to other space shooters thanks to its H.R. Giger influenced art. The aliens are organic in nature and feel like indigenous life forms on each planet. Some of the backdrops are beautiful, with scrolling three or four layers deep. The game doesn’t make use of many special effects outside of transparency and is better for it. Its only failing would be the slowdown that reaches Super R-Type levels of chugging although it isn’t as common.
The true star of this production is still the music. 2 Unlimited were a European dance group that provided remixes of songs from their album Get Ready for the game’s score. While it isn’t my style of music it is pretty good and although tonally it is a mismatch. It also gets very repetitive as most of the songs sound like remixes of one another.
Even with its flaws BioMetal is still a solid game. It is disappointing in the sense that it had the potential to be greater. With a few slight tweaks it could have been one of the better shooters for the platform. It will have to settle for just plain good.