Plasma Puncher

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Tomatotrap for PC, originally released in 2017.
In Plasma Puncher, you take on the role of a white blood cell who is attempting to defend his host’s bloodstream from a gigantic invading germ and an onslaught of pesky microorganisms that mean him harm. The white blood cell runs around the outside of the germ, smashing baddies with his fists, grabbing a variety of powerups, and attempting to build up enough strength to take down the big bad germ as well. A shop system allows the player to choose his upgrades to increase his defense and mobility and add new moves to his fighting repertoire.


The game is a single-plane brawler that allows the player to jump and move to the left or right, as well as perform a dash maneuver that lets the player lunge forward a bit, and this move can be used to get behind enemies. Unlike most beat ‘em ups, the game doesn’t take place in the traditional metropolitan locales, which typically include slums, warehouses, subway stations, and the like. Instead, the entire battle is fought on the back of a large multi-eyed germ called the Mother-Microbe – and the eyes look at you as you run around – with enemies hovering down from the skies or popping into existence from pustules that form on the microbe's exterior.


Like any brawler, there is a good deal of repetition – and perhaps a bit more so here, due to the lack of changing scenery – but this is balanced by an array of enemy types that have vastly differing attack patterns, and the player is frequently placed in situations where he must deal with several enemy types at once. Since the Mother-Microbe is round, players are able to completely circumnavigate the germ, running away from enemies only to encounter them again from the opposite direction.


Your ultimate goal is to destroy the Mother-Microbe, but she is impervious to all but your most powerful ability: the Super Ultra Hyperbolic Attack, or SUHA for short. Defeated enemies occasionally leave behind blue spheres, and collecting them fills a meter at the top of the screen. Once filled, the player may initiate SUHA, jumping high into the air and smashing downward with his fist, damaging nearby enemies and knocking a single heart off of the Mother-Microbe’s eight-heart meter.


Each SUHA strike causes more visible damage to the germ’s skin and eyes, slowly weakening it over the course of fighting numerous enemy waves. Once the player manages to crack the germ’s outer shell, he moves inside to face some new enemies as he causes damage to the germ’s core.


Enemies come in many forms, and their simple designs make it easy to quickly assess threats in order to prioritize attacks and perform crowd control. Some of the most basic enemies are little octopus-looking globs that can transform into spinning balls of spikes. Pink ones roll across the ground, but are only dangerous for a short time, while the blue ones become spiky while jumping and can only be harmed during the short time that they are on the ground.


Metallic dog creatures can spit balls of acid at a steady pace, but they are defenseless from behind. A number of hovering enemies can drop slime balls and appear frequently, so most of the time, players must be wary of attacks from above, and must their jumps to deliver air combos and take them down. There also are a few heavy enemy types that require a lengthy barrage of punches to take down.


Later levels introduce tougher creatures, such as hovering spiked enemies that can only be defeated by smashing down on them from above – a move that must be purchased in the shop – or defeated with powerups. Bulbous pink and green enemies can shower the entire playfield with balls of slime and must be taken out quickly to reduce the chaos. UFO’s can blast beams that create large shockwaves in either direction. Some pustules have lengthy spike arms that swing back and forth, requiring the player to deal damage quickly or dash to the other side of them to avoid taking damage.


Large pink enemies are the brutes of the bunch, as they take a ton of hits to destroy and can defend against attacks and perform retaliatory strikes, whereas most enemies simply repeat their attack patterns with little concern for the player’s actions outside of his proximity.


There are also some green exploding enemies that can wreck the player’s standard strategies pretty quickly, as completing a full combo causes these foes to explode immediately. Instead, the player must perform an attack and then move away as the enemies begin to flash red, counting down to an explosion that can harm the player and nearby enemies, making them equally useful and dangerous… especially when encountered in a crowd.


Fortunately, the player has access to an array of powerups to help him defeat his enemies, and for the most part, these can be purchased in any order (there are a few that build off each other). Since the game is almost entirely melee based, one of the more useful upgrades is a combo extension, which can be upgraded three times, each adding a new flourish at the end of a series of attacks. Higher combos have larger areas of effect and stronger finishers, allowing players to take down multiple enemies in succession, even ones that are shielded against regular attacks.


There is also a stomp maneuver that allows players to slam down on enemies from above, as well as a charged variant of this attack, which can be useful for taking down floating spiked enemies or performing hit-and-run attacks on tough baddies. The “throw” move is a charged punch that can break guards and send enemies flying backwards. There’s also an air dash that, as expected, allows the player to perform a dash in midair. The remaining upgrades include longer invincibility upon taking damage, three health upgrades that let the player sustain up to six hits instead of the default three, and an upgrade that extends the duration of powerups.


There are two different kinds of support characters, in the form of hovering red and orange creatures. Killing a red creature causes it to drop a health-restoring heart, and killing an orange one causes it to drop a chromosome-shaped icon that grants the player one of five random powerups. A countdown timer appears at the bottom of the screen to show how long the powerup will last.


Powerups include a drill arm that lets the player deal a bit of extra damage at a short range (although this ability is less useful later in the game when the player has a fully-upgraded combo), a hammer that deals heavy damage at a longer range, a swarm of spikes that causes rapid damage to nearby enemies, a whirlwind uppercut that causes continuous damage to ground- and air-based foes, and a rocket launcher that tears through even the toughest baddies from a distance.


Enemies are fought in waves. The game auto-saves at the start of each wave, and players have infinite continues. Getting killed returns the player to the start of the wave and removes any currency earned or upgrades purchased during the wave. The game offers three difficulty modes, as well as a 1-life hardcore mode and a time trial mode where players must finish waves under a set time limit. As players complete waves, different hats are unlocked as well.



2D CRED
Plasma Puncher was developed by Tomatotrap, a studio founded in 2015 by Eder Cardoso. The game’s credits include artist and game designer Eder Cardoso and programmer Fred Lima, both of whom hail from Brazil. Music for the game was composed by João Victor Barroso.

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