This is a horizontal shmup. You have free movement around the screen but can only shoot to the right; the only exceptions are if you bought a weapon that aims elsewhere, a ship upgrade that can tilt your shots, or a ship with rear weapon slots. The stats for weapons are displayed by a row of icons rather than a number or even a bar, so it can be difficult to determine if a weapon is actually stronger or faster than another (you can upgrade a weapon and see no visual change with the stats, even if the weapon actually did get stronger/quicker). Plus, the descriptions for most weapons are just flavor text, so the only way you’ll know for sure if it’s a good choice is to buy it and test it out. Luckily, you can sell everything you buy for the same price you bought it. While this does predictably lead to some absurd inflation for later items, it also allows and encourages more experimentation. Something this game has that I don’t think many other shmups have is a heat mechanic: if you shoot too much too quickly, you’ll overheat and have to wait a second before you can start shooting again (and of course, different weapons generate different amounts of heat).
When you start playing the game, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the graphics are awful. Sure, every sprite looks nice in isolation, but placing tiny, bright bullets in front of a bright background is a recipe for disaster. To make things worse, enemies and projectiles are drawn behind the smoke that spawns when stuff explodes! I had to lower the graphics settings completely just so I could get past the first level (despite no performance issues). Even then, the amount of particle effects combined with your own projectiles make it way too difficult to see the things that’ll actually hurt you. Speaking of, colliding with ground and walls also damages your ship, but there’s no clear distinction between what counts as a background object and what counts as terrain, so it isn’t uncommon to find yourself running into what you thought was an opening and getting killed. Combine all of this with the fact that there’s zero feedback for when you take damage, and you’ll often find yourself dying without knowing what you did wrong. You can’t even see your health go down since it’s a tiny dial in the corner, and if you’re looking at that, you won’t be able to see where you’re going. Heck, you don’t even get the “hull integrity critical” message until you’re below 10% health, and almost nothing deals less than 10% damage, so you’ll rarely see it without also dying immediately.
But it gets worse. For starters, nearly every enemy is a bullet sponge, and their health scales as stronger weapons become available, so it’s not like you can strategize around this. Next, a couple levels in, the game straight up tells you that you won’t be able to avoid everything, and even by 2004 standards, even without the aforementioned visual issues, that’s inexcusable. Now, not only do you have to deal with said graphics problems, but you also have to deal with unfair level design and enemy AI on top of that! Enemies will fly in suddenly from not only the right side of the screen, but also the top, bottom, and even left side, so nowhere is safe. There’s one type of enemy that fires wall-hazard lasers above and below it, but with no warning before it happens; it just spawns suddenly, and you simply have to remember at which points the laser appears for your next run. There are enemies that stay still and constantly fire an instant-kill laser upwards, and these are more of a bullet sponge than all the other enemies, and one of them is placed right where the autoscroll speeds up suddenly, meaning there’s no way you’ll have enough time to kill it on your first try (and perhaps even your next few tries after that). There’s one part where you encounter a ground enemy can aim everywhere except right above the ground, so you’ll have to get down there to kill it while it’s rapid-firing right above you, then suddenly a swarm of enemies comes in from the left side of the screen, all of whom can shoot downward at you, leaving you no room to dodge their attacks since you haven’t had a chance to kill the ground enemy yet and are stuck right between its bullets and the ground. Oh, and lets not forget that several levels are actually taller than the screen, so you can get shot from an off-screen enemy (and on top of that, the screen’s vertical scrolling speed is slower than you can move, so you might run into an enemy or bullet before you know it’s there).
The best part of the game is a “race” where you have to pilot your ship through green lasers; there are no enemies, no projectiles, nothing harmful that moves faster than the level’s autoscroll. It was here were I found out there actually is feedback if you get it: a faint “metal hit” sound effect that you can barely hear among the rest of the game’s noise, and a small explosion sprite that also shows up when enemies and destructible projectiles are shot down. Of course, even knowing that, it isn’t enough to change the fact that you’ll die without knowing what happened in all future levels; for just one example, if a guided missile is heading right for you, you’ll never be able to tell if it actually hit you or if you managed to destroy it just in the nick of time.
The worst part of the game is the boss right afterward: the boss has an erratic, unpredictable attack pattern; it always aims its shots at you; it can fire guided missiles that not only move faster than you and can make sharp turns to hit you anyway, but also fire multiple ones at one so you won’t be able to shoot them all down; and it can move onto any side of the screen, including above/below where you won’t be able to attack it effectively. However, the worst part is that when you deal enough damage to it, it starts generating guided, slow-moving bullet-sponge landmines that instantly kill you upon collision (and it only latches onto the top/bottom of the screen at this point, occasionally moving back and forth between the two). So now, you have to navigate around all the landmines and its regular attacks and its guided missiles and its erratic pattern. I was ready to give up here when I just so happened to win by pure luck, and believe me, luck is the only way this boss can be beaten. No other part of the game comes close to how bad this is except for the final boss (where the no-indication lasers return), but at least that boss stays on the right side of the screen. The kicker is that, not long after this boss, you unlock the “swarm” weapon which auto-targets enemies regardless where you are or whether the weapon is equipped to the front or the rear. Honestly, the only reason not to invest entirely in this weapon is a glitch where the target point for certain bosses is placed away from where the weak spot actually is.
Overall, this is an insult to the shmup genre. Absolutely NOT recommended.