Okay, that’s enough free games for now. After all, I gotta play my wins before the devs revoke the keys. ☺

  • Fatal Stormer

    6 hours playtime

    6 of 11 achievements because the 7th one broke

This is a 2D arcade-style SHMUP. You can move in any direction, but the level scrolls automatically, and holding the R button only shoots to the right if you don’t have any upgrades. You can also use a special weapon by pushing the A button, but that one has a cooldown timer which can take quite a bit of time to refill, so you’ll want to save it for when you end up in a bad spot (or when the boss is shielded most of the time and you just need a way to pierce its armor). You have a health bar and an armor bar, as well as a shop between levels to buy upgrades, but I can’t help but feel these were used as excuses to have cheap level design, as there were many times I felt it was impossible to dodge everything, as if the dev(s) expect you to know in advance what to buy (you can sell, but of course the sell price is lower than the buy price, so you only wanna do it if you’re certain). I played on Normal mode.

Not long into the first level, you’ll notice one of the game’s major problems: enemies leave behind a giant smoke cloud when they die, and this obscures other enemies and projectiles. I thought maybe it’d be like Jets ‘n’ Guns where you could lower the graphics settings to mitigate the smoke, but no, it’s identical on both Ultra and Very Low. Also in the first level, you’ll encounter another one of the game’s major problems: enemies can be just barely in the background with no obvious visual distinction that you can’t shoot them (they just look slightly smaller than normal, which you wouldn’t know if that’s how the enemy first appears, which happens quite a bit). It’s not even them coming in from a distance; they’ll hover just out of range and do typical SHMUP enemy movements before just barely eking into the playfield to shoot you. To make things worse, the second level not only introduces foreground objects (which also block your view), but they’re quite massive in this level as well. Normally, I focus on offense, but between both of these issues, the game had proven it isn’t above cheap hits, so the first thing I bought from the store was the best armor…then I got to the end of level 2 and encountered a massive damage-sponge of a boss; clearly, the game expected me to buy a more powerful weapon instead. Yet another example of how stat-affecting shops make games worse.

Oh, and to top it off, movement is slightly delayed on purpose; you have to buy more-responsive-controls in the store.

But it gets worse. Not long into level 4, a massive swarm of laser-shooters fly in from the background, and not only is it hard to tell which are in-range, but this game doesn’t have invincibility frames, so lasers can drain your armor and health quite quickly if you don’t get away in time, and since there are so many of them without a clear way to know which ones you need to look at, you’ll likely take some damage here (I only made it past because enemies can drop armor-restoring items on death). Level 5 manages to be even worse; I had the second-most expensive weapon (a.k.a. second best weapon) but the sheer number of enemies (some even coming from the left side of the screen), projectiles, and smoke made it extremely difficult just to scrape by, let alone avoid everything somehow (if that’s even possible). It’s one of, if not the worst level in the game. Level 6 is just a boss, and while it has a swinging attack that I’m pretty sure can’t be dodged in certain circumstances, and it has a laser attack that’s also frustrating to try to avoid, it’s still a step up.

Side note: it turns out that some ceiling/floor/walls are safe to touch while others are harmful, and the only way you’d know which are which is trial and error.

After level 6, you’ve finished world 1 and unlock world 2, where you find out the game resets your equipment and currency each world. The difficulty also goes back down, so it’s almost like each world is its own little game. 2-1 is okay for the most part, but it ends with the same miniboss 3 times in a row, then the main boss of the level is invulnerable most of the time, either bouncing off the screen boundary or shooting its bullet pattern. Worse, when it does decide to reveal its weak point, it can stop on the left side, where you can’t shoot it because you don’t have enough money to (re-)purchase left-shooting weapons.

Those distortions in the background beside the blue projectiles are also harmful, by the way.

2-2 is one of the few levels that scroll quickly, meaning you have little time to avoid the giant hazard walls that show up every now and then. That’d be one thing, but it turns out this level doesn’t have set level design, meaning it’s random whether the wall is on the ceiling or the floor (and maybe whether or not there’s a wall at all)! More frustrating are the left-spawning enemies that often stop before you have enough room to get behind them to shoot them. Even if they do just barely let you get behind them to shoot them, they can do an aileron roll to avoid your shots, and more could spawn right were you’re at, causing contact damage. Even if you make it past all that, there’s still the level’s boss, which has two attacks and they’re both cheap shots: a very sudden laser swipe (can only be avoided by hovering over the boss) and a very sudden horizontal dash (can only be avoided by hovering over the boss). There’s also no checkpoint in this level (even though most levels have at least one), so dying to the boss means you have to do the whole level over again.

2-3 has a worm enemy that never shows up again, and when you kill it, it finishes its attack animation (and IIRC still deals contact damage in the meantime) before starting its death animation. 2-4 has a not-insignificant segment where enemies stop spawning and it just has a row of stone crushers moving up and down; they also never show up again. There are also drill enemies in this level that can suddenly fall from above the screen, in case you’ve forgotten this game has a bunch of cheap hits. The boss of world 2 doesn’t have any cheap attacks, making it one of the easiest in the game by default.

World 3 starts off okay, but 3-2 picks up the difficulty to try to match world 2: not only does this level introduce an enemy that shoots very thin, hard to see torpedoes, but there’s also another enemy that looks like a blue Flamer, and if you don’t kill it, it’ll explode and shoot out four of those blue-arc projectiles that the 2-1 boss shoots when its weak point is exposed. Thing is, unlike world 2, world 3’s background is also blue, once again resulting in a harder-to-see projectile. Both of these are in the midst of more enemy spam, by the way. Plus, if you do make it past those enemy waves, the game introduces yet another enemy: rows of green guns that move horizontally and shoot vertically. Keep in mind that this is only the second level in the world, meaning you don’t have much funds to spare and will end up using default equipment for something, and if you have the default weapon, you cannot deal enough damage to the green guns to kill them before their row reaches the left side of the screen, and if that happens, you will take damage since there’s just barely NOT enough room to slip between their shots. Lucky for me, I just happened to have enough money to buy the second worst gun, and that was able to keep the green guns at bay enough for me to survive. Oh, and 3-2’s boss has a move that allows you to get stuck below it, meaning you have to take damage to get back up.

3-3 introduces on-rails lasers; you can’t kill them and they can move across the rails abruptly, but I thought it had promise. They even show up with the level’s boss, but never again after this level. 3-4 is the only other fast scrolling level besides 2-2, and it has enough left-spawning enemies that I finally bought a rear-shooting gun. Near the end, it just has the same 5 second segment repeated, and while the pipes (hazard tiles) are placed in ways that make it a bit confusing to tell where they are in the play field at first, it does become repetitive. During 3-5, I noticed something: I hadn’t had my vision obscured by smoke in a while. In fact, some of the enemies die with white smoke that disappears reasonably quickly. Could it be that world 1 was just a really bad first impression, a draft that hadn’t been corrected?

Nope; world 4 brings back enemies that generate large, black smoke clouds on death, and the later levels do get pretty bad about it (maybe not as bad as 1-5, but still bad). Plus, there’s a new cheap hit levels can have: lava rocks suddenly splashing out of the lava! At least the lava splash isn’t harmful, but it’s yet another foreground object. The boss of 4-2 is almost okay, but it has an attack where it punches the ceiling and causes rocks to fall randomly, and the rocks also splash the lava, making it hard to see other rocks. The boss of 4-4 is nothing but abrupt melee attacks (some of which also deal massive damage); not only do you have to do trial and error to figure out where the safe spots are, but the checkpoint is quite a ways away, meaning you have to redo half the level for another chance at the boss. The final boss (4-6) uses lots of guided missiles, meaning you have to move just right to avoid them (and you’d only know how by trial and error after getting hit a bunch). Worse, even if you do learn how to avoid all of the final boss’s attacks, one of them starts by abruptly shooting a laser horizontally from its weak point, so you’ll almost certainly take damage anyway (meaning you really need to avoid those other attacks so you can take the hits that need to be taken).

Overall, I don’t think I can recommend this game. I enjoyed some parts of the game, but the sheer number of cheap hits combined with the vision-obscuring graphics and less-than-ideal implementation of the shop result in more frustration than fun.