Justice Playthrough #173: BulletHell Planes

As the early stage of a larger work, this shows promise. However, it looks like it’s meant to be a complete game unto itself. Ah, well. At least it is (as of this writing) free.

Page 51, Game 21: BulletHell Planes by Gijs Westerdijk

Vertical-scrolling 1942-style shooter. You have a plane with guns, you have lots of foes, go!

The graphics are simple. The only sprites in the game (aside from the bullets) are you, the red enemy planes, and the purple enemy planes. The purple boys will steer towards you, and as such are by far the larger threat. The red guys will just keep cruising straight ahead, and you can honestly just ignore any of the ones that aren’t in front of you.

So many targets….

You have a pair of machine guns, one mapped to each trigger. As you fire them, a gauge (a heat gauge?) goes up. When it hits the top, your guns stop firing — disaster! But then, all of a sudden, a big-ass laser blast erupts! Hooray?

So … I overheated my guns and they briefly turned into lasers?

This is … very weird. It feels like the game is trying to discourage me from just holding down the triggers and going all perma-blast, force me to fire off more controlled bursts. When the guns stop firing, it very definitely feels like punishment; I can shoot the enemies’ bullets out of the sky, so loosing my own guns leaves me vulnerable as hell. But then, the laser blast goes off and shit gets wrecked.

What’s the intent here? Am I trying to keep one gun firing while strategically overheating its comrade?

There’s a lot here I’m not getting. There’s a multiplier, and I have no idea what it’s for. Every once in a while, it blips up to “x2” before dropping back down to x1 almost immediately. What’s making it go up? What do I need to do to keep it there? I have no idea.

I eventually figured out that the unlabeled number at the top-middle of the screen represents my hit points. If I run out of hit points, I sometimes go to this “Last Stand” mode, where it insists I waste X enemies in a very short amount of time to continue playing. If I fall short, game over. I get one Last Stand per play — I think? Maybe?

This game wants powerups, so badly. I want to be able to restore my health. I want guns that can hit harder. I want more weapons, or different weapons. I want some mini-bosses, and full-on boss fights. There’s just SO MUCH room for more stuff in this game, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t exist.

Gameplay isn’t bad. I’m normally grumpy when mooks in a vertical scroller like this require multiple hits to kill, but this one allows you to spray out enough bullets at a time that the combat feels more exciting than frustrating. Likewise, when you see a flight of purple foes, you’ll want to blast a hole in them and fly through it; once a plane goes past you, it can’t hurt you any more.

If one of my friends presented this to me as a game they were working on, I’d be pumped on their behalf. It’s one hell of a promising start, with a lot of room for improvement. But as a finished product, it’s lacking. There’s just not enough game in this game.

Doesn’t suck, though. And like I said, as of right now, it’s free. If you love the genre, what the hell, there are worse ways to kill a half hour.

Will this next game offer me something other than an eternity of grind?

Page 6, Game 21: Memoir En Code: Reissue by Alex Camilleri

“an · autobiographical · game · album”

I don’t know what a “game album” is, but this sounds like an intensely personal artsy kinda game. So yeah, I’m anticipating very little grind here.