Having fond memories of things in the style of R-Type, Raiden arcade game I was expecting something of that sort, short burn lives, lots of projectiles to avoid and plenty of big scary bad guys. All of that is here and more, modifiable ships, different grades of missions and refreshingly short but fulfilling missions. Not only that a fairly strong narrative so far.
It would be easy to describe this as bullet hell, yet I would be leaving out so much. The first is the variety of the craft or the fact they can be upgraded. While you only have three craft, you can upgrade them. They have a number of statistics, Navigation, Power and Structure (confirm). These allow you to fit progressively better, stronger and more powerful equipment onto your craft. Don’t get too excited when you see a Unique piece of equipment. Powerful bonuses come with drawbacks, Flaws in the game’s lingo.
With only three craft and three versions of, it might seem easy to max your favourite out and then just hunt for equipment. This isn’t the case and for once, the grind is pretty good. While most of your items can seem to be worthless, that’s their point, to be credits in the pool you have. This is shared between all your craft and it’s easy to buy a new craft, upgrade it, only to find you’ve spent more in upgrades in the other ship. You only need replay a few levels and it’s now far better. Items can be locked from use until your Structure, Power and Navigation reach a required level. Rarely have I spent more than ten minutes before I could unlock, use those items.
The other part that stands out here is that many levels. Most of them are quite short and can be completed in minutes, nothing more than ten minutes at absolutely most so far for me. Most of them are quite simple, simply navigate from one side to the other and cause as much destruction as possible. The ones with boss battles are easily the longest. Working for Ginger is the other I’ve encounter, requiring you to drop a number of specific items. One set could be only armour would be accepted, the next only a certain grade of item.
Oddly enough for something so simple and self contained, it has a fairly strong narrative element. Just as you can see, the world has fractured into many small clusters. That some groups have resisted the corporations, the entities that controlled these areas. The Ark is one such group, their ship is looking for a place to hide only being the start.
Where I had to take a few points away from here was the way some parts of the tutorial if not the entirety of. I worked out more in this game, how blue prints work mainly was my own discovery. I couldn’t find anything, only through experimenting did I work that out. The same is true of most of the controls. Once I got a few skills, things made more sense and I was able to do more, handle more, cause a lot more destruction.
Perhaps the only complaint I can forgive is the credit earning system. While you collect a bounty, you only gain ten percent of it for your own use. I can see the reason for it and I can believe it’s a part of the world. However, considering the way it’s presented, it can be a bit of kick in the guts. After a level when you’re working towards that thirty thousand, only to get just under three? It can break the flow, frustrate.
Audio and Visuals
When I first launched this I was expecting something that was very 2D,with obvious borders, boundaries. I was also expecting to see many of the same kinds of enemy and to have little warning to their arrival. All of those were completely wrong. Instead we have a very detailed almost 3D game, where enemies that escape your wrath can escape to the distance and closer to you. Not only that, clear warnings of incoming waves are obvious to see and you can know where to place yourself. Combined with varied enemies, different projectiles and mines the screen can become cluttered but stays easy to read. The ships themselves have a certain depth about them. As they roll, escape from your gun sights, there’s always a section to look at.
Here as well the soundtrack just works for me. The music never overwhelms the many sounds of the game. The weapons have different sounds, not just feels. The same is true of the skills as well. Some are more subtle than others, yet they’re still there. There’s little to complain about here at all. Even the levels themselves, I never felt overwhelmed with sound, despite all of the warnings and enemies on screen.
No multiplayer. Though, I think could benefit from a co-op mode somehow. It would only make some of the levels more chaotic and well worth the bullet hell title. To dramatically double up the mayhem.
This is easily the game I was waiting for but didn’t know I wanted. Were I being especially kind, I would say this is the closest game I could get to the Skyland game I want. The art style works, the gameplay just works, the skills, abilities all make this more than a simply case of bullet hell. The levels are nice and short, yet stay fresh. It’s easy to get through them, matched with some tough bosses, you will be challenged and more. Finding the right gear can change your craft from under powered to overpowered. Give it ago and you might be just as surprised as I was.