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Near Earth Objects is the type of game that gets under your skin - the kind where you tell yourself you'll only play for five minutes and then you suddenly find it's been an hour. Solid music, pulsing colours, various enemies and screen-shaking explosions add a lot of appeal to this variation on Asteroids, creating an enjoyable experience that will keep drawing you back in.

In Near Earth Objects you have to fend off alien ships, asteroids, floating skulls and other weird, lethal objects. Don't worry about the shooting, though, as the ship handles that for you, firing constantly. The only thing you need to take care of is aiming and keeping the ship out of harm's way. That doesn't seem all that complicated, but your ship's guns have limited range, which means you need to move just a little closer in order to shoot down all your targets.

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Instead of directly controlling your movements, though, you have to gauge how hard you fire your thrusters. Holding up on the D-pad gives you a big push, while tapping it gives you little bursts. You have to use these carefully to position yourself just right, as it takes a while for the ship to lose whatever momentum it builds up with those button presses. Until you get the hang of it you'll be whipping all over the place; it takes time to get the movement down in this game, and even when you do it's not easy, providing much of the challenge.

Staying as still as possible seems like a good tactic, but it doesn't let you do that once the enemies start showing up. Asteroids split into smaller pieces when shot, and these pieces split even further when hit again. The smaller the piece the greater the speed it travels, so it won't be long before you're in a meteor shower of tiny, dangerous rocks. If you survive that, alien ships that shoot back get thrown into the mix. Then skulls that grow up to colossal sizes when hit, only dying when they take up a quarter of the screen. Then invincible barriers. The game continually throws new things at you, steadily raising the difficulty and requiring you get better at aiming and movement.

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Powers help you out as you play, if you can grab them. Small, floating POW symbols will fly by, and if you can make contact with one without crashing you'll gain a spread shot that chews through enemies or a satellite ship that will help keep you safe. These make a huge difference in how fast you can get through each stage, although they'll never make it so easy you don't have to worry about your piloting skills. They're useful enough to make you risk death to obtain them, though.

Near Earth Objects is pretty reasonable about its difficulty if you want to see everything it has to offer. You can choose to continue as much as you like on the normal mode, replaying the same stage until you beat it. You get three lives to start, but each stage resets when you fail, so you'll need to practice until you get it right. Players who want something more difficult can go for the survival or yolo modes (both only give one life), but for regular players you can approach the game at your own pace without losing progress.

The visuals, effects and sound give the game a punch as you play it. The objects seem pretty basic in screenshots, but they all shimmer with several colours of neon light. They vibrate with pink and blue, creating a nice visual effect that jazzes up the presentation. When they explode those colours burst out in a fireworks-like display with a screen-shaking explosion, one that makes your shots feel powerful despite the tiny 'pew pew' sounds your guns make.

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The gunfire and sounds all seem to fall in tune with the tracks that play during the game. They're upbeat, throbbing tracks that have a nightclub feel to them. This trance-like music ties in with the gameplay well, feeling right at home with twitchy reactions and explosions of light and colour. The only drag is that, for whatever reason, sometimes the game goes completely silent for a couple of stages; it just doesn't feel right without its soundtrack, so when it fades out and doesn't come back things get a lot duller.


Near Earth Objects is simple to pick up and play, only asking that you shuffle yourself around with the D-pad to best keep your ship intact. With a clever variety of enemies that constantly change how you play the game and the audio/visual presentation, it becomes something you can easily sink hours into, floating along in a colour and music-fueled haze.