One of my favourite shoot ’em ups has to be the timeless classic, Ikaruga. A top down scrolling shooter that combined intense, bullet hell action with brilliant enemy and level design with a unique gameplay twist that turned it into what is essentially a fast paced puzzle game.
That gameplay twist is the ability to change your ships polarity or colour, at will. Enemies and their shots were either red or white and you could make your ship match these colours to suit your needs. If you were red, then red bullets would do you no harm but actually build up your missile shot, but touch a white bullet and you died with the mechanic working vice-versa when you were white.
Likewise, shooting a red enemy with a white shot did twice the amount of damage, so the game became an intricate weave through hordes of enemies. Immensely difficult, but also extremely satisfying once you became proficient with the idea.
The game started life on WiiWare, and while the two player mode from that version is regrettably missing here, the rest of the game come through intact. The developer has done a stand up job with the controls, with several different options to choose from, but my advice would be to stick with the recommended controls as they are the only way to really persevere with the game.
The story here is that a witch has invaded your land with all manner of monsters and you are the only one who can stop her. So, you must jump on your trusty bird and take on wave after wave of enemies. The game shoots automatically as long as you are moving; and this is the one part I really don’t like, as if you happen to keep still between waves, it is entirely possible to be killed through no fault of your own as you try to start moving and an enemy or shot hits you before your own bullets start to fly.
Absorbing shots that are the same colour as you builds up your homing missiles, so you will find yourself chasing down beams and shots to beef up the meter, switching colours as different enemies appear. It is when you are doing this that the game is at its best, as it feels really good to get control of things. The only thing missing here is that, in Ikaruga, enemy beam weapons pushed you back but here they dont at all, or if they do I have never felt the effect.
You will need to get that missile rack full for the bosses as some of them are really very difficult and you will need to constantly switch colours to survive for any length of time. In truth, the game isn’t anywhere near as manic as Ikaruga, but this is a wise choice as the combination of playing on a small screen with touch controls make truly accurate dodging tricky.
As it is, I’m sure this game will test you, with fast enemies that appear from all sides of the screen to torment you, sometimes all at once. There are three difficulty levels, and even the easiest will prove a test for some.
The graphics here are pretty good, with a look that reminds me of some old SNES shooters of the past. The most impressive aspect of the graphics is the fact that it all moves at an impressive 60 frames per second, meaning you get a super smooth gameplay experience, and I have to admit that I never saw any kind of frame rate drop during my time with the game.
Overall, this is a decent little shooter. It may not have the intensity or inventiveness of its inspiration Ikaruga, but there is plenty to like here. The two player mode from the WiiWare version is sorely missed, but what is here will keep you entertained and should keep shooter fans happy.