My first real taste of spaceship shooters was a copy of Asteroids my Dad purchased for me a few billion years ago, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to unlock the secret of staying alive as long as possible.
Since those days, I’ve not played too many shmup games as the high difficulty level, and the nonexistant character development meant that I generally drifted off to more narrative driven adventures, and first person shooters. Still, I used to plunk down quarters at the arcade for a turn at Galaga, so it’s a genre with deep roots in my past.
My last real foray into it was back in the SNES days with Super R-Type, but I’ve watched a great deal of the Bullet Hell style games that have mostly hit popularity in Japan since then, and and I always thought there’s no way I could survive long in that style of game.
With the launch of Devil Engine, for the Nintendo Switch I got a chance to try my hand at this super hard genre again. Unsurprisingly, I’m incredibly bad, but good god damn, is this game addictive.
Story wise – eh. Who cares. There’s a problem, you have a space ship, time to shoot the living hell out of it. The game starts with a quick tutorial level to get you up to speed on the controls, and then launches you into battle against wave after wave of enemies. The usual hallmarks of the genre are here – with various power ups from your guns like spread fire, homing fire, and a superpowered laser beam. There are also bosses at various points in the levels, there to throw more bullets and enemies at you to try to get you to burn your continues.
Control wise, the game is solid as hell. Shooting and dropping bombs are your main buttons, but there’s also an excellent absorption action “burst” that can pull enemy bullets into your ship, for those moments when there’s just too much on screen to possibly dodge. Another control can change the speed your ship moves, with a three level increasing speed boost, for the wide open areas where dodging is key, to the slower methodical crawls through the corridors of spacecraft. The ship is very responsive, and feels good with both analog stick and gamepad. It took me about an hour to get the real feel for the controls and the feedback of them, but once you’re tuned in you can spend your time focusing on other aspects as it just becomes second nature. With the massive amount of projectiles coming at you, this set it and forget it familiarity becomes a high necessity quite quickly.
Sound design is also one of the high points for me. The soundtrack is a 80’s-esque guitar wail, pumping in the background while massive explosions and destruction rains down in the fore. When in need of some instrumental filler music to get something done at work or around the house, you could do a lot worse than this.
The graphics are inspired by the 32 bit era shooter games, with hand drawn pixel art. They’re great, but my eyes never have much time to fully focus on anything due to the massive amount of death coming at me constantly, so the individual designs are vague shadows in my mind.
Full disclosure: I’m still pretty awful at the game. I refuse to play the easier version (the kid level, the game calls it), so I keep blowing through my continues before I get much farther than the last boss of level 2. It’s a testament to the well designed controls, and the fun of playing, that I keep booting it up on my work commute. I don’t care what the motivation of the pilot is, or the reason why aliens seem to be attacking my planet. If I want a quick dip into a fun game without all the reading and character development of most of my other options on the Switch, this is an excellent, bite sized boot up.
Devil Engine is highly addictive, very fun, and a welcome entry into the pick up and play style the Switch helps push. If you’re a fan of the shmup genre, this is a great addition.