Instant shmup classics from Cactus

An independent game developer from Sweden has created two very original and very addictive shoot-'em-up games. Get blitzed in 'Clean Asia' or battle the power of numbers in 'Fractal Fighter'.

Clean Asia
Clean Asia (Credit: CNET Networks)

For those of you who are big fans of Warning Forever, I've got an awesome treat for you. In fact, I have two truly awesome treats for you. Swedish game developer Jonatan Söderström (otherwise known as "Cactus" on Shmup Dev) has created two of the most addictive free shooters I've seen this side of Kenta Cho.

The first, Clean Asia, came out a little earlier this year. There's not a whole lot of story within the game itself, but it appears that the continent of Asia has become contaminated with all sorts of...metal?! Anyway, it provides an interesting psychedelic backdrop for your continuing battles against 14 increasingly difficult bosses. You can play as two characters--Mickey R. Dole in an attractor ship or Mackey I. Dole in a reflector ship. The attractor ship depends much more on collecting debris and careful movement, while the reflector ship is similar to a conventional blaster ship.

The music in Clean Asia was created by Swedish composer John Marwin, and it fits the bill very nicely for the frenetic gameplay and deviant visuals. The key to success, at least in the Reflector ship, is managing your debris level, since it affects both your shield and your chargeable missile. If you don't attract enough debris, or use your missiles too quickly on lower-level bosses, you're going to be missing your shield when you need it most.

Fractal Fighter
Fractal Fighter (Credit: CNET Networks)

A more recent release from Cactus is the new shmup Fractal Fighter. While Clean Asia uses the look of Hong Kong neon and Blade Runner, Fractal Fighter evokes London fog and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fractal Fighter is much more like the aforementioned Warning Forever, as you face bigger and bigger bosses until the sheer barrage of missiles becomes ridiculously difficult. The bosses are designed around fractals, so that there are small guns on top of bigger guns, on top of bigger cannons. You must take out all of the bosses' weapons in order--that is, the small guns must be destroyed before you can start blasting the big guns.

The first level offers a very modest boss featuring three arms, and three levels of guns. The second boss adds another set of guns on each arm, and the third boss adds two more arms, with lots more fractal guns in the middle. As you might expect, the power and amount of the incoming artillery increases exponentially, and approaching Level 10 ignites a frenzy that should crush mere humans. Only the supernaturally dexterous will be able to take Fractal Fighter all the way to the end.

Fractal Fighter uses an interesting system of lives and points to determine your final score. At the start of a new game, you can decide how many ships you'd like to use, from one to five. The more ships you select, however, the less points you'll earn for each piece of the bosses you destroy. If you're an extreme player looking for a high score, one ship is the way to go.

The design of Fractal Fighter is more subdued than that of Clean Asia. The graphics are completely black-and-white. John Marwin has created the music again, but it's much more ambient than his previous soundtrack. Both games are very addictive in their own right, but the fun colors, up-tempo music, and stylish asymmetry of Clean Asia keep me coming back to it much more than Fractal far. If I start dreaming about Fractal Fighter tonight, I'll let you know.

About Peter Butler

Peter has been working at since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.