As you might have noticed while reading this blog, I’m a real sucker for strange and weird games. Psychosis is a very special case in that regard: Trippy visuals are paired with strange monster designs and level layouts make for an unforgettable experience. It’s the look and feel that ultimately sell this rather basic shmup.
As in many sidescrolling shmups, you make your way from left to right in an autoscrolling level, where loads of enemies pop up and try to shoot you down. Nothing special here, except that the design of these enemies is really creepy and strange, which makes the action a bit more interesting than in other games. Your ship controls well, not being too fast or too slow for most situations and evading enemy fire is always a valid option, especially at the beginning, since the enemy set-ups are well placed. As soon as you get some power ups, you’ll receive two satellites that change things up a bit. You can rotate them around you and they are able to block enemy shots. You can also upgrade them so they fire an array of various missiles and the like.
While this sounds promising in theory, it makes the game really easy: You can just put the two satellites in front of you, give them a neat powerup where they shoot energy beams and thus crush pretty much everything the game throws at you. Since it stops enemy shots and destroys most of what’s in front of you anyway, the game becomes quite simple, as you only have to evade shots that come direct from above or beneath your ship. However, if you die, you’ll loose your power ups and the game becomes really tough again.
When you’re able to hang back, you have a lot of time to really appreciate the design of the scenery and enemies. Psychosis really sets itself apart from other shmups with it’s clever use of color, sounds and shapes in order to present to you a slightly psychedelic experience. There’s a lot of imagination on display here and I think it’s the most rewarding part of this game. While there’s nothing really wrong with the gameplay itself, outside of maybe being a bit unbalanced, it’s the entir audio-visual package that makes this game come out on top.
Since the TurboGrafx-16 never made it to Europe, the Virtual Console release is the only way to play this game here so far. It got an US physical release back in 1990, so if you find that one, you should definitely pick it up. It was released on the Virtual Console on the original Wii in 2008 and costs you around 6$/€, which is a fair price.