Sunday, 27 February 2011

Deathsmiles - 360

Originally appearing in Japanese arcades back in 2007, Cave's Deathsmiles has been resurrected from its gothic grave by the team at Rising Star Games.

A side-scrolling bullet-hell shooter, Deathsmiles is not for the faint of heart, with the player's character assaulted on all sides by a beguiling array or fabulously detailed occult horrors.

Leading the charge against the demonic hordes is a 13-year-old London lass called Windia, who is looking for a way to escape her Halloween-tinged hell and get back to the safety of her own world.

The shooting mechanics are solid with the player able to fire left and right, while smartbombs are used to unleash hell on the forces of darkness. Holding down both buttons creates a force field, which if penetrated, causes the lead character to auto-attack.

Blasting through waves of enemies rewards the player with a glittering array of crowns, tiaras and rings which when collected are added to a counter at the bottom of the screen. Once enough of these have been snaffled, it's possible to trigger a power up move, which showers the player in bonus trinkets, sending their score rocketing into the eerie twilight.

Deathsmiles' opening levels are relatively straightforward on the default setting, but in true Japanese shooter style, the difficulty soon ramps up with the screen infested with hulking brutes, airborne monstrosities and thousands of deadly bullets.

The scoring system is a complex beast, with the player juggling attack patterns to maximise scoring potential. That said, you can barrel your way through, but players looking to boost their way up the leaderboards will have to put the hours in.

The levels are varied and beautifully presented and the player is also granted flexibility in what order they want to tackle them in - a nice touch which gives players plenty of scope to strategically plan their routes through the game.

Deathsmiles is a short game and it's possible to polish off the experience in around 30 minutes, while infinite continues mean everyone will see the credits roll.

However, simply blustering your way through is missing the point entirely. It's all about repeated playthroughs, perfecting your techniques and chasing elusive high scores.

Deathsmiles is broad in scope and the disc is jam-packed with new modes, insane difficulty grades, control layouts, graphical variations, a two-player co-op option, world-wide leaderboards and a choice of up to five characters to take flight with. Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses and all offer a different spread of fire.

It should also be noted that the game screen can be expanded to fill your TV. Playing in the default small letterbox setting can lead to problems due to the amount of enemies, bullets and other visual effects cluttering the screen.

Cave have once again delivered an intense and brutal shooter which offers deep and rewarding gameplay.

It's a score chasers dream and a generous package, especially with the added bonus of a disc containing the game's soundtrack and another bursting with images and an array of bonuses for fans.

It's great to see Rising Star Games once again having the guts to release such a niche title in the West.

Wouldn't it be great if the company now turned their attention to other Cave shooters such as the delicious Muchi Muchi Pork & Pink Sweets and Akai Katana?

We can but hope.

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