Can a game be good, yet make you feel a little creepy at the same time? Well, if you’re playing
it very well might.
Death Smiles is a horizontal shooter developed by CAVE and published here in the US by Aksys Games, and man, it’s an old school treat. Now horizontal shooters are nothing new in the US. Many of us were brought up playing games like R-Type and Gradius, so fans of those games will feel right at home playing this new shooter.
So, why would it make me feel creepy? Is it the Gothic horror theme of the game? Not really, it’s cool, but it’s not really creepy. Is it something to do with the game play? Nope, that solid and I’ll dive into that a little bit later. So what is it? Well it’s the fact that this
is your cast. The oldest character is 16, and the youngest is about 11. Yeah, they’re Lolita. And I’m here,
much older than that, playing as these little girls flying through another dimension fighting off demons and spirits. So, yeah, it’s a little creepy.
Characters aside, how is this game? Pretty darn fun. I’m a big fan of these kind of shooters, or how the internet has affectionately called SHMUPS, and this one is a good one. Often known as a “Bullet Hell” shooter, meaning that this game is full of bullets and projectiles coming at you from all directions.
Control is simple in this game. And, much to my relief, joystick friendly. Some will say you NEED a joystick to play games like this, for precise movements, but both controller and joystick worked very well to me. Each of the girls has a different bullet stream path, and different quick and power shots. You choose which direction you shoot by either the right or left trigger, for automatic quick shots. Or you can use the A and B buttons to shoot left and right respectively. You hold down the buttons to shoot rapidly, rapid press the buttons to shoot your power shots. The triggers are automatically locked into the quick shots. As the name states, quick shots come out quick and rapid, while power shots don’t come out as rapid, but have a bit more punch. Also during your rapid shots, your familiar shots will move rapidly, during the strong shots, their shots get stronger too. The shots kill enemies, and you get skulls building up a counter down at the bottom of the screen. Which will lead up to the next game function.
Holding X, you’ll trigger your Auto-Lock, which will form a “targeting area” around you, and enemies that come into it, will have an adorable demise. Pressing A and B at the same time, will activate Power Up mode, which will boost attack, and you won’t die by touching enemies, only their bullets (bosses are the exception), the cost of this, will be counting down all the skulls you’ve gathered in the game from destroying enemies.
That’s the game play’s core mechanics, so is it fun? Yes, each stage is very detailed, and the music is pretty good as well. Each stage’s music has a very fast tempo and a Gothic sound, which just builds on to the tense battles you’ll have. Each stage will consist of a lot of enemies, shooting at you from all directions. And the higher difficulty you select, the more bullets come up on screen at one time. So, on level 1 difficulty, no one will have any real problem. On the higher difficulties, expect to continue a lot, unless you’re really good at these types of games.
Now the story, is pretty simple. Four girls have been taken into a realm called Gilverado.
This is where some Lost Children go, and they can’t go back. Now a man named Dior found them, and took all the girls into his care. He unlocked their magical power inside them, and they grew reputations as “Angels” protecting this land from evil. Now more and more monsters and demons of legends are coming out. And of course the girls are going to go stop them.
Now I won’t get too much into it from there, basically because it’s pretty standard fare. Big evil being summoned, heroes have to stop them. Blah, blah, blah. Though I will say, the guy summoning the evil, is named Jitterbug. That’s pretty silly, yet totally awesome at the same time.
Really, that’s about it to this game. The bosses are huge, and send tons of bullets on the screen, and you often have to have pretty quick reflexes and a steady hand to avoid a lot of the things this game will throw at you.
Now, this game has quite a few modes to play. Arcade, a direct port of the arcade version, complete with tiny, tiny screen. 360 version, a port altered to made for the X Box 360, this version is formatted to fit your screen better. And Mega Black Label version. Which has one more character, a new stage, and an extreme difficulty: Level 999. So, really you have a bunch of play modes.
Though, now talking about the difficulty. It’s a bit false, because you have unlimited continues. Sure you’re score resets to zero, but you will be able to finish the game, as long as you keep trying. Massive amounts of bullets and all.
Replay on this, is going to vary from person to person. If you love SHMUPs you’re going to love this game, and play it a lot. It’s very easy just to pop into and play, but even lovers of the style of game aren’t going to play this game for very long in one sitting. The game rarely lasts longer than an hour for a play.
It offers both online and local multiplayer, which is really nice because these games are really meant to be played with someone by your side. It helps to keep your score up, and really, it’s funny if your friends aren’t as good as you. Or in my case, I’m not as good as my friends. Though, when I was playing this game with a friend, I noticed the achievements only unlocked for me, even though he had done the exact same thing as I have. I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but it happened with us. I haven’t braved online multiplayer yet, but really, I don’t feel the need to.
The cost of this game is going to put off a lot of gamers. It’s fifty bones, and only available in a limited edition. Now, that’s not to say you don’t get some bang for your buck. With the limited edition you get the game, soundtrack, and a new faceplate for your X Box.
But it’s STILL fifty bucks. And some people are only going to play this once or twice. It’s kinda hard to argue the price, when there are similar games on X Box Live for ten bucks or less. Heck there’s one that’s even free. So, really, fifty bucks is bit much for most gamers. But, overall I’m happy with my purchase of the game, though it creeps me out a little bit. This game rates a 7 out of 10 for me. Also, when one boss is a giant cow, how can you not enjoy that?
- Fast and frantic game play
- Easy to play, hard to master.
- Variable difficulty, selectable at each level
- Very good, detailed graphics, though a bit dated
- Jitterbug is one REALLY cool boss name
- Bosses are huge, and full of variety, from a large cow to an evil tree, to a face in the ground.
- You may feel creepy for playing as underage girls fighting demons
- Price. Fifty bucks is a bit much for most gamers for a SHMUP
- Very short game