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SYNTHETIK is a roguelite arcade shooter with randomized levels and fast-paced gameplay. These kinds of games feel awfully familiar by now. And yet, this one manages to stand out thanks to a couple of small design changes that have a big impact on how the game feels.

First, there's weapon handling. When you empty your clip, you don't just hit a key to reload. You hit another key to toss away your magazine and then you load your weapon again. This feels completely unnecessary at first, but it adds additional tension to the firefights and shakes up the whole feel, the rhythm of confrontations. This small extra step leads to a more deliberate sense of weapon handling, and it makes a huge difference.

Accuracy is another element that's handled quite differently. Mousing over your enemies changes the size of your reticle (and thus your chance to hit the target), depending on factors such as distance, weapon range, and movement. Simply firing a few rounds in their general direction doesn't do you much good. Positioning and timing are actually important! Pulling off a well-aimed headshot feels good. Even more so when you're being swarmed by enemies and are forced to constantly move around.

There's other neat stuff, such as online co-op, unlocking new equipment when leveling up, gigantic boss fights, and a rather lovely sound design where bullets go CLANK! as they meet their targets or ricochet from walls and containers.

What's most impressive about SYNTHETIK is how just a few meaningful design changes can turn what would otherwise be a fairly run-of-the-mill shooter into something quite special.

SYNTHETIK is available from itch.io and Steam. For more information, visit the game's website and follow developer Flow Fire Games on Facebook and Twitter.