Like a whole host of recent classic bullet hell shooters, ‘Danmaku Unlimited 2’ – a recently released classic bullet hell shooter – has found its way to the iPhone. Unlike these other classic bullet hell shooters (we’re talking about classic bullet hell shooters here, can you tell?), ‘Danmaku’ poses an interesting existential question: if the first one was unlimited, why do we need a sequel? In fact, how is it possible for something unlimited to even have a sequel? That’s the type of question the boffins working on the Hadron Collider would love to tackle.
So while you’re stewing over that, I’d like to inform you that ‘Danmaku Unlimited 2’ is a pretty good bullet hell shooter in an App Store which is filled with pretty decent bullet hell shooters. That’s the last time I’m going to use the phrase ‘bullet hell shooter’. Promise.
In this bullet hell shooter (Whoops), you control a Senko fighter ship (I’m still waiting for the arcade shooter that allows you to control a Llama) that is fighting to uncover relics from the old war and unravel the secrets surrounding the Valkyrias. I’m not going to be all pompous and pretend I know what that means, by the way.
What’s important is that you have a ship to control, and you blast things with it. If you wanted something intricate and complex, you’d go watch and episode of ‘The Only Way Is Essex’. Like most iPhone bullet-hellers, you control your fighter by swiping your thumb across the screen, with firing handled automatically.
Collect blue orbs from downed enemies and fill up your beam gauge. That’s an order. When enough of the bar is filled, you can activate the burst beam – a stronger vertical blast - by holding one finger on the screen and swiping down with the other. It’s not exactly intuitive, especially as you’re holding the iPhone in portrait mode, but to its credit, it never actually feels unintuitive, which makes my previous statement completely redundant. Alright then.
The burst beam is satisfying to use, frying everything in its path, but even more satisfying is Trance Mode – sadly not a rave in a field somewhere in Berkshire, but a mode where for a few seconds, your ship goes completely crazy and untouchable with super-powerful lasers blasting everything on screen.
Part of what makes both these so cool to use is ‘Danmaku’s’ brilliant graphics. The rather Spartan tutorial does little to prepare you for the actual game with its pretty level lighting and animation as well as small, but neat visual effects such as the screen blur when you die.
And die you will. Not just because this is bullet hell, where death is as frequent as a London Underground Tube, but because there are so many coloured things flying at you from all directions during gameplay that it’s impossible to play with any skill. Orbs, bullets and lasers zoom in constantly from every angle, making you just hope the game lets you survive long enough to progress. Imagine someone continually chucking potpourri in your face and you’ll have some idea what I’m on about.
One ambiguity that didn’t help was the instruction to ‘graze’ bullets to earn points. Now don’t know about you, but the idea of snacking on a couple of FMJs when peckish doesn’t really appeal to me. I’d much rather some Doritos. In any case, I just kept dodging, and kept shooting. That normally works.
Still,’ Danmuku’ hits all the important notes when it comes to gameplay. It may be a bit chaotic – but let’s face it – it’s supposed to be. It’s also smooth, enjoyable and great to look at. Probably one of the best iPhone bullet hellers I’ve played. And if you’ve been reading my reviews a while, you’ll know I’ve played a couple.
So even though stuff like the sound s a mixed bag – effects are drowned out by the music, but that music is awesome – it looks good, plays good and well, is good.
Danmak-who you talkin to? @KevThePen on Twitter perhaps?