Thursday, 21 November 2013

Galshell: Blood Red Skies (PC)

I hope this post isn't too clouded by nostalgia, since this (along with Warning Forever and Dan Da DAN!) was actually one of the first few doujin shooters I played when I got my first PC years and years ago. Obviously, the main draw of the game is the amazing Gigeresque visuals, though the detailed sprites have a payoff in that there isn't much animation to go with them. Though what there is is used effectively, with enemies and bullets pulsating and wiggling like gross infectious parasites. Even the two player craft have their
own unwholesome little twitches.
Ufortunately, as you can tell from the screenshots accompanying this post, there's a weird problem I've had while playing Galshell on my current PC: all the explosions and enemy bullets are surrounded by ugly black squares. Though it doesn't effect the game itself, it is very ugly, and a shame considering it gets in the way of the great sprites. A little extra bonus is that all the game's graphics and sounds are just regular files in the game's directory to be enjoyed at your leisure.
The game itself is a lot of fun to play too, of course. There's no fancy scoring system like you'd expect from a modern shooting game, though there is a fairly novel power-up and extend system.
The player gains experience points for every one of their bullets that hits an enemy, and killed enemies drop
blobby red throbbing items, which also give experience when collected. Upon levelling up, the player's weapon is upgraded and they get an extra life. Even when your weapon's fully upgraded, you can continue levlling up to keep gaining extra lives.
Along with the three regular difficulty levels you'd expect (easy, normal and hard), there's also an extra mode, which ramps the difficulty up to crazy levels, but also gives the player experience at a much higher rate.
Galshell is a great game, and definitely worth playing, and if anyone can solve the  black box problem, please tell me!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

ChainDive (PS2)

Firstly, I'll apologise for the quality of the screenshots accompanying this post. PS2 screenshots never turn out perfectly, but the shots of this game are even worse than usual.
Anyway, ChainDive centres around a simple concept: your character has a lasso that can be used to swing
from the green dots littered around each stage. There are also enemies, who are defeated by first being frozen by your double-bladed weapon, and then smashed, by attaching the lasso to the frozen enemy and smashing into them.
The genius of the game is that it uses these small ingedients to make every stage different to the last. The first stage seems like a stage from any other mid-00s action game, with the added gimmick of the lasso: you travel from left to right defeating enemies on the way to the end of the stage. But the stages that follow are all totally different. A stage with no floor that has the player swinging from rooftop to rooftop, a stage with an incredibly high tower that must be climbed while fending off attacks, a stage exploring a cave to fin switches, and so on.
All these stages are a ton of fun to play, and the variety ensures that the game doesn't outstay its welcome. The big problem with the game in general though, is the difficulty level. Although the extreme difficulty does
result in a huge feeling of relief and satisfaction, it is still incredibly frustrating until the "trick" of each stage clicks in your head. And there are times when the game seems incredibly unfair, when you're desperately trying to find a dot to hook onto or when you fall into the abyss at the bottom of some stages with seemingly no way back up.
I still definitely recommend ChainDive to curious players, despite all that.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Tenkomori Shooting (Arcade)

So, an evil witch has kidnapped all your monkey brothers and locked them in her towers. Also her towers are full of shooting minigames. You, as one of the two remaining free monkeys must go to the towers to shoot stuffand save your brethren. It's a lot like what Tanto-R or Warioware would be like if they were made by
shooting obsessives.
Depending on which difficulty you choose, you play through either four, six or nine shooting games, each about a minute long. There is a surprising amount of variety among the games, there are a few obvious ones like "shoot this many tanks/planes", "collect this many medals", "shoot the boss this many times". but there are also a lot of games based on premises you wouldn't associate with shooting.
There's a stage in which you must shoot love hearts at a performing idol, making sure to avoid hitting the waiters, elvis impersonators and dogs who will all assault you in various ways should they feel your love. There's also a stage where a man will ask for certain sushi dishes that are scrolling by on a conveyor belt, to be delivered via the medium of thrown plate.
Then there are stages where you're shooting stuff again, but with an interesting twist, such as a stage that gives you three shots to destroy at least 20 planes, making you aim at clusters of planes close together, to set of a chain of explosions. (If you're really good, you can get all twenty in a single shot). Or a stage where the enemy is a single cell organism that splits in two when shot, and your mission is to split it into a certain
number of copies.
Obviously, since it's a Namco game, there are also stages paying homage to Galaga, Digdug and Xevious (Another possible homage to another Namco game is that the monkeys look a lot like the monkeys from Dancing Eyes).
That's enough boring listing of the minigames, I think. I like this game a lot, it appeals to my short attention span, it rarely feels unfair, even when it's brutally hard and it is very addictive. Having seperate high scores for each minigame along with a highscore table for the highest combined scores is a simple but excellent idea, adding an extra little challenge, pushing the player to get better each time they play. I always say this when I write about an arcade game, but it really is a shame there was no home version of this, it has a lot of potential for
extra modes that would only work on a home port, like being able to play each game individually, and infinite survival mode, and so on. Oh well.