I first came across Charlie's Games whilst wandering around Direct2Drive's indie section... well, strictly speaking I'd already played Space Phallus but didn't put two and two together until an impulse purchase of Bullet Candy EX whilst I was at the till with Witch-Bot Meglilo and to be brutally honest I didn't really enjoy it quite as much as I'd hoped. I suspect that's because it's an arena shooter and the purchase coincided with Geometry Wars: Galaxies and a Wii Classic Controller rearing their respective vectorised and plastic heads.
But for the pennies being asked for Bullet Candy I didn't regret that purchase and when some of the independent gaming blogs mentioned Charlie Knight's next release, rather than downloading the demo and spending a while umm-ing and ahh-ing about actually purchasing it, I did my best "I'll by that for a dollar" impression, threw a couple of the aforementioned at the man and grabbed the full game. And, after playing a couple of practise goes whilst getting the controls set up into a comfortable configuration, it was a case of not resurfacing until around four hours later when the caffeine levels in my blood finally dipped far enough to make the entire world go blurry rather than just the screen.
Irukandji is a score attack shooter so, unlike games where the emphasis is on completion, the objective is to rack up as many points as possible before sending that score to the internet to laud it over other players and/or get laughed at. It only has one level that cumlinates in a boss battle, which is set in an underwater trench inhabited by hordes of glowing marine life where the player is left to their own devices to maximise their scoring. When everything has been unlocked, there are six ships to choose from, each with their own main cannon and mega weapon (or at least, four of them have; the fifth offers a damage multiplier and the sixth has "hyper mode" on the main guns when fully charged) and they all require a different approach to use properly.
DOWN HERE ALL THE FISH IS HAPPY
After a number of nasties have been atomised, the player is rewarded with a power-up item; to begin with these are P icons that crank up the ship's weaponry and, after that has been thoroughly maxed out, they change for S icons that bump the score multiplier and it's learning how to use that multiplier and indeed how to farm for as many S pods as possible with each ship that is a major factor when going for the big bucks in Irukandji. Another biggie for getting decent scores is not dying, because the reward for a "perfect" single life completion of the stage is always a welcome bonus and getting twonked will power the ship down and reset the multiplier.
I've never been massively into score-based shooters personally but was well and truly grabbed by Irukandji and at the time of writing have seven of the eight achievements lit, all six ships unlocked and some decent scores with four of them - I was, needless to say, rather smug about that (irrationally so in fact considering the chasm between my scores and those at the top of the table). Charlie is only asking a minimum donation of a dollar for Irukandji and, whilst it's not a huge epic of a game, there's enough in there to keep most players busy and those with a truly competitive nature should find themselves seriously hooked - if you're not sure, there's the demo on the website to try before you buy and if you consider yourself a shoot 'em up fan, at the very least give it a whirl.