One of the best things about the indie game scene is the sheer amount of creativity some devs showcase. I, for one, am always partial to adding a clever twist on a classic genre. That’s the situation I found myself in with A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher from AskAnEnemyStudios.
Are you a leftie or a rightie?
A Duel Hand Disaster is undoubtedly one of the more unique games I’ve played on the Switch thus far. The game field is split into two halves, each with a different objective. The left side plays like your standard shoot-em-up. Enemies drop from the top of the screen, and it’s your job to kill them before they reach the bottom. Your ship on the left is invincible but runs off a limited amount of fuel.
Meanwhile, the right screen focuses on collecting resources and parts. Your right ship doesn’t have fuel restrictions. However, it can take damage, provided it’s not gathering anything at the time of impact. Playing at low health also provides score bonuses, creating a basic risk/reward system.
Actually, I’m ambidextrous
What makes A Duel Hand Disaster so unique is that not only do these two gameplay styles play out simultaneously, but they also interact with each other. Killing enemies on the left spawns resources on the right. Collecting these resources both increases your score multiplier and drops a weapon upgrade on the left. Meanwhile, letting an enemy reach the bottom of the left screen transports the enemy to the right playing field, making your job harder. The right side can also sacrifice a gathered resource to refuel the left side, decreasing the multiplier but allowing the left ship to continue killing enemies.
Your prime objective is to get as high a score as possible. However, as the game is so keen to remind you every time you start a game, your score only persists if you successfully extract. To do this, the right ship must collect 12 parts, then initiate the extraction procedure. Only when this happens does your score not reset. To make things harder, every four minutes, a firewall quickly encloses around the right ship. To survive this impending doom, you must sacrifice some parts to launch a BFP (a defense).
Complex, but doable
If A Duel Hand Disaster sounds overly complicated, that’s because it is, at least at first. There are a few tutorial videos you can watch between attempts that explain different aspects of the game. These still took a few watches for them to sink in, but only until I was able to find the control scheme illustrated in the pause menu. Only at that point was I able to complete my first extraction.
After extracting, the real risk/reward trade-off kicks in. You can either re-enter the difficulty you were on or kick it up to a higher level. You have the option to invest your score up to that point, creating a bonus of sorts. To claim this bonus, you have to match or exceed your score in the next round. As always, death wipes your score, though you do get to retain your leaderboard position.
You don’t always get to keep your ranking though. There are a few scenarios in which dying wipes your leaderboard rank. The first is dying in a mode called Sliver Bullet Bonus. This mode triggers when you have less than 5 percent health. Dying in this state wipes your leaderboard position from that particular difficulty. The more severe penalty comes from dying during Tear 3’s Bloody Sunday. Death here means that all of your leaderboard positions disappear.
How do you stack up?
A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher is a fun little title that brings some unique concepts to the table. While at first the game seems overly complicated, once you get a feel for it, these mechanics mesh together for a surprisingly fun, innovative, well-crafted experience.
The arcade-style, high-score goal the game focuses on provides infinite replayability as you attempt to best yourself and others. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you’d be hard-pressed to find something here to enjoy. But for those who enjoy the challenge of continually trying to one-up yourself, you’ll get a lot of mileage here.
A review code was provided by the publisher.