Some of my first memories of gaming come from wandering into an arcade on Cleethorpes seafront; a crappy little run of buildings spanning both sides of the pier, discordantly bleating out Oh, My Darling Clementine to the clank of small change hitting metal and the very occasional cry of joy over a 5p toy being spat out after £15 was force fed into one of the top chutes.
Amongst the mechanical 2p thieves and bullshit crane machines a lifelong hobby was born. The obligatory House Of The Dead box towered imposingly, scaring my 7-year-old self into steering clear of the thing entirely, so that just left a single stick, top-down bullet hell title which had your helicopter shooting down waves of military tech. Whilst I can’t for the life of me recall its name, the spark had been lit.
Back when flash games were your best bet.
Skip to 2011 and I met my first thorough experience with the genre proper, upon the release of a title called Bullet Heaven (ironically enough). The soundtrack was brilliant, the controls smooth, the difficulty high, and the epilepsy strong; a winning combination for the 16-year-old me. So here I am, five years and 353 Steam games later, and I’ve come across (I believe) some of the more obscure gems in the genre. GundeadliGne is one such gem.
Released back in 2011 as the second part in the Gundemonium Collection from developer Platine Dispositif, GG is a truly fantastic example of what good gameplay can bring to a title. You could almost say that it was Japan’s Nuclear Throne in that sense, as the core gameplay loop takes maybe 20-30 minutes if you play it straight through without dying; the real wealth of the experience is learning it inside and out.
Team up with your fellow masochists!
The story is pretty much surmised by “a war with hell because alchemy fucked up”, and in GG it’s told through a single slide of text before the start of each of the five missions. I have to admit that I haven’t paid much attention to the plot, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s too important to getting the true value of this game.
No, the meat of the experience (as with any good bullet hell game) is the gameplay, and here it’s polished to a shine. Within the horizontal bullet hell template is (as previously mentioned) an incredibly solid 20-30 minute gameplay span over five missions. Enemies from flying pumpkins to bullet-spouting trains dance around the screen between each of the many bosses, bringing the usual hail of death with them at every turn. Still, all of this is very typical of the genre, so what makes this tiny indie game from a one-man team stand out?
… Best not question this one.
Well, let’s start with the difficulty. Whilst there is a standard difficulty selection ( from novice to “Demonic”), there are also three characters to choose from; one for beginners (Elixirel), one for standard play (Eryth), and one for advanced players (Nagi). Elixirel has a single loadout, a standard “clear the screen” bomb attack, a recharging slow time ability, a gun which can shoot a powerful forward beam or weaker spread attack, and can generally adapt to any situation. A jack of all trades, but she moves slower than the other two characters, meaning that the harder stages become full of incredibly tight dodges.
Nagi is very risk/reward. With a choice of three weapons (one long range, one melee, and one which reflects bullets whilst it’s moving) alongside a powerful melee attack which fires at the same time, the theory is to get as close to the enemy as you can. This allows you to hit with two weapons at once, although it requires some serious dodging and knowledge of the attack patterns in advance. The price of this power, however, is the lack of any kind of bomb.
Eryth, meanwhile, comes with forward-facing bullets, a recharging attack which slows time if it hits, and a selection of five different bomb attacks – a “shield” of cards, two variations of a forward burst attack (one more powerful, but with a longer recharge), a spread attack, a homing laser, and a stop time ability. All rid the screen of bullets, and all have various recharge rates, but more important is the secondary purpose of bomb attacks in GG.
It’s Japan. Cat girls are kind of a given.
If the bomb gauge is 3/4 full and your character is hit, the bar totally depletes and the screen is cleared of bullets without you taking any damage. Thus, amongst learning the ins and outs of the 20-30 minute gameplay loop, you’re given the option of taking an early hit at the expense of your special attack.
Combine all of this whilst adding in some of the highest difficulty challenges I’ve seen in a long time, and you have one hell of an experience for bullet hell fans. All for £2.79 on Steam, with local and online 2 person multiplayer to boot – bloody bargain.
Sadly, some people have to take things a little too far and ruin the party. Yes, this game has some partial (and almost complete, in one instance) nudity in some of the later stages when it comes to the bosses. However, if you’re focused enough on the bosses to notice a sub-pixel nipple, you’re going to die horribly before you can say “tits”.
First up, the Steam (uncensored) version is unrated in terms of age – there isn’t a single mention that this is suitable for kids, even if I think the nudity is so minor that you’d have to be abstinent to notice amongst the hail of death heading your way.
Even after completing the game, I had no idea nudity was in it – you’re too busy dealing with bullets to notice.
Second, the PS3 version which is rated E (10+) has censorship to cover up any slipped nips. If you’re offended by (or just don’t like) the nudity in the Steam version, you can turn that same censorship on by editing the INI file.
Also, if you’re that focused on seeing boobs, you’d see much greater success from a simple Google search, rather than wasting your time ignoring some of the most enjoyable pure bullet hell gameplay I’ve seen in a long time.
So yeah, to sum up, it’s a fantastic horizontal scrolling bullet hell shmup, with the ability to shoot backwards and a ton of replayability. If you like bullet hell (or hard games in general), £2.79 is well worth a gamble.