First published on retrogarden.co.uk
The most immediate question about CTG is: what does CTG stand for? Well, like the Liberal Democrats, it stands for nothing at all. According to DeRail, CTG is simply the name of the game – it isn’t an acronym, but it hasn’t stopped people making their own suggestions on DeRail’s Facebook site; Cyborg To Granny, Cookie The Geezer and Cat Throws Granny are some of the offerings.
In any case, CTG is actually a side-on “absurd gravity shooter” game, available on Xbox Live for the tiny sum of 80 Microsoft Make-Believe points, or about 65p in real money. In CTG, you control an un-named black feline armed with a gravity gun, which looks uncannily-like the gravity gun from Half Life. On each level are a number of circular shredders; the aim is to herd waves of enemies into these points of death before your 9 lives run out. Your opposition comprises of floating heads, old grannies, OAPs on scooters (rascals), mortar-wielding grandpas, and the occasional dribble-bus full of the nearly-dead. Apart from the floating heads (that can destroy certain walls by making contact with them – useful on certain levels), all of the enemies appear out of portals at the side of the screen, then slowly shuffle towards you. If an enemy makes contact with you, you lose a life.
You have 4 weapons which look very similar on firing, but have different effects. Your primary firing mode pushes enemies in the same direction and angle (actually, a little-more vertical to help you get ground-walking enemies off the floor) as its projectiles. Some enemies are too tough for your main gun, which is why you also have three other weapons; a gravity grenade that you can lob over obstacles, a superbounce that ricochets off of surfaces, and a mega blast that is a charged version of your main weapon. All these alternative firing modes make an enemy “bounce” into the air on contact, allowing you to use your main gun to herd them into the shredding points.
CTG is very neo-retro in its play mechanics. The control method uses both analogue sticks; one for movement, one for aiming. For those younger gamers, think the same controls as Geometry Wars; for the 30-somethings, Smash TV; for the true vets, Robotron. I’m a skeptic of dual controls on 2D games, but CTG actually works very well… except that the mapped fire buttons are awful. The primary fire is the right bumper – not trigger, bumper. This means that you’re forced to hammer the un-natural button of choice rapidly, which gets very uncomfortable after a short time. There is a rapid fire powerup to ease the burden, but the primary fire does hurt the hand after extended play. Maybe CTG actually stands for Carpal Tunnel Grater?
The actual game itself reminds me a lot of Psst! on the Spectrum, insofar as enemies appear from entry points, and you have to herd them into a specific area by pushing them with projectiles. The collision detection on the main weapon is very generous, but is to the player’s advantage; with such a wide angle of effect, you can run towards ground-based enemies with your gun slightly tilted, making them bounce into the air and against the nearest wall. You can then herd them into the shredding points, ghostbusters-style. This strategy works with the flying heads and the grannies, but the scooters and buses require a harder punch, meaning you have to charge up a mega shot without leaving yourself too vulnerable to the heads or grannies. Some levels are designed to make you think, usually using obstacles so that you’re forced to deal with the enemies without having any line-of-sight to them. The tricky levels of CTG won’t fox a good gamer too much, but does provide some entertainment, especially when being swarmed in the later levels.
The sound effects can be quite repetitive and slightly annoying, especially when you get hit. The musical score is completely suited to the game’s presentation and style though; Scheming Weasel by Kevin Macleod was chosen partly because it’s a mischievously light-hearted ditty, but also because it’s royalty-free. I like this since it adds weight to the developer’s indie status, and also keeps costs low without sacrificing quality. The in-game music is shopping-mall “musak” and doesn’t distract from the play adversely.
All this makes for a retro-inspired, frantic game with a slow burn to it. The first few levels are designed to ease you into the physics and strategies behind the game. Some levels are fun, such as trying to survive as the flying heads destroy the ground you’re standing on, but most levels are fairly straight-forward if you remember the weapons at your disposal and how to apply them. The graphical presentation is clean but fairly bland and doesn’t inspire any great love for the game. The claw-inducing controls need to be acknowledged; allocating a bumper as the primary fire button – especially in a game when button-hammering is required – is just crazy.
I have a rule with online stores; if you have to take more than 3 seconds to make a decision to buy, don’t buy it. Save yourself these precious seconds and just buy CTG. 65p wouldn’t buy a hat for an Xbox avatar, and certainly not a game, and certainly not a GOOD game. In this respect, CTG offers excellent value-for-money and, for anyone that needs a quick retro blast, is worth a punt.