The game is very simple at first-glance. It’s a 2D side-scroller. You jump over pits. You shoot enemies. You fight a boss with a big health bar and specific attack patterns, and then you do it all again in the next level. So why is it so much fun?
Well, the difficulty curve is perfect, for starters. It hits that sweet spot, making players strain their skills to advance, but not believe there is a brick wall between them and victory. You move on when you’re good enough to move on, not because you got lucky and the boss took it easy on you. This is aided by the excellent controls. You move with the arrow keys, and aim with the mouse. You get a quadruple jump and every boost is completely steerable, which opens up some stunning possibilities for evasive maneuvers. On top of this, there’s a bullet-time bar, which can be extended along with your health. I’d say you don’t need it for maybe 90% of the game, but it is much appreciated for when you’re in a tight spot. It’s also one of the few games where I was compelled to go back and beat it on higher difficulties. Maybe it’s the ability to carry all your weapons over, unlike a game such as RE4 where you need to start from scratch if you want to make the game harder. Perhaps it is because the game is short enough I could feasibly beat the higher difficulty levels in a couple days instead of weeks. Kudos to the developers, by the way. The higher difficulties don’t just give the enemies increased damage and call it a day. New threats show up in the stages, and the bosses have much smaller windows of opportunity in their attack patterns, which will hit increasingly large sections of the arenas you fight them in.
Oh, and it’s one of the few games with a ranking system that I don’t actively dislike. The game doesn’t hold any fun unlockables for ransom behind a wall of S-rank requirements. It is mainly a score booster at the end of the level. Speaking of unlockables, there’s 3 other characters you can use besides Wryn, each with their little quirks. One is a robot version of Wryn, that only gets energy for bullet time by evading attacks and connecting with her own. There are some secret challenges for those who go looking, but the rest are well within the reach of an average gamer, minimal hunting or fuss about them. The only drawback is that if you’re a veteran of the collect-a-thon games, you won’t find much to strive for.
One of my favorite sections is an area on the last stage. With as few spoilers as possible, you redo all the other boss fights, back to back. It’s a great way to demonstrate how your skills have grown over the course of playing the game.
Then there are the weapons. These are unlocked through points earned in the levels, just like the health/bullet time upgrades. The starting pistols and rocket launcher will work in any situation, but you can bring other weapons for an added advantage in certain scenarios. The shotgun is great for using on bosses that insist on being up close and personal. The flamethrower easily clears paths through enemies. And the sword is awesome because you can bounce back bullets rather than try to dodge them. Who doesn’t love thrashing a boss with their own projectiles?
The protagonist is a pink-haired girl named Wryn. She wants to become a hero. And apparently, she has decided that the best way to do this is go and wipe out all the retired heroes cluttering the leaderboards of history. Well, it does work. Helps that there are only five. She’s not very complex, but her tendency to directly address the player adds to the light-hearted feel of the game.
tl;dr- It’s a fun game. It’s $5 on Steam. Go play.