DoDonPachi Blissful Death review

DoDonPachi returns in prequel form, in yet another stellar ‘bullet hell’ title from CAVE.

We’re seriously spoiled for choice when it comes to arcade shooters on the AppStore. And no where is this more apparent than with every release so far from CAVE. Be it winged humanoids of Espgaluda; flying witches of DeathSmiles; or Bug Slaying princesses from Bug Princess

The best of these is DoDonPachi Resurrection an almost perfect example of an arcade shooter. Well, now it’s back in prequel form, taking us back six years prior to the events of Resurrection where an army of sentient machines, empowered with strategic consciousness, is preparing attack on the human race.

In a twist of irony the humans send their best fighters, a team of cyborgs called the Element Dolls who can integrate themselves with their attack ships for increased power that humans can’t replicate.

For those of you that have already experience either Espgaluda or DoDonPachi before, you will be familiar with the controls and game layout. Played in the iPhone’s portrait orientation, the game is displayed in one of three views, zoomed out, normal and full screen. Because the game is an arcade port, it is not set up for the resolution of the iPhone, and so is surrounded by a border of artwork. Zoomed out, it shows the game’s original size, while leaving it set to the default or to full screen results in the resolution being doubled or tripled.

You control your fighter craft with just one finger. You can either directly tap and drag your craft around the screen, or place you finger below in the area off screen (kinda like a track-pad). This works best, allowing you to see exactly where you craft is in relation to the mass of incoming bullets. To the left of the screen (by default) are two action buttons. One activates a bomb action, while the other changes up your laser type, switching between a narrow beam or a spread of fire.

Even though the game is scaled up for the iPhone, it is still a feast for the eyes. There are a plethora of enemies of all shapes and sizes, each with their own attack patterns and weapon types. Like all CAVE games, the screen soon becomes a rich banquet of bullets, from both the enemy and yourself. As you progress and take out the enemy you can earn and collect power ups which increase your bullet count even more.

What is most impressive though is the hyper mode. Take out enough of the ongoing eaves of enemies, and you’ll power up your hyper meter. When primed, the bomb button will switch to hyper, at which time you can tap it to unleash an almighty blast of laser fire which will not only take out any enemy in its path, but also the oncoming trail of bullets. Hyper mode is available to both the beam and spread fire.

Bosses encounters are once again epic in design, and require lighting reflexes to avoid their full on attack patterns. Much like playing bat and ball, it’s all about keeping your eye on the bullets and not the enemy itself. Having a hyper mode ready in the wings is also a bonus to taking out the boss as quickly as possible.

So far, CAVE’s ports have featured both the original arcade mode of the game, as well as a new Smartphone-based remix. The Smartphone version usually gives you an easier ride, with less bullets on screen and infinite continues should you lose your lives. DoDonPachi Blissful Death forgoes this smartphone feature, and instead opts just for the classic arcade mode. To cater for a range of player experience, it does offer up a few difficulty settings, from novice through to hard. However, for the skillful player and hardcore fan, you’ll want to set the game to the way the game is meant to be played, and that is on the Hell difficulty setting. According to CAVE, this features the original bullet patterns… And as you can expect, it’s damn hard.

Other customisation includes two different ship types, and three doll characters. These vary the gameplay with subtle difference on attacks, and the balance of strength over armour.

Blissful Death is proper hardcore! Compared to Resurrection and its more intricate scoring and power up system, this game feels more stripped down and arcadey. I’m actually glad they left out the smartphone mode, if for no other reason than to keep you on your toes to ensure you keep replaying it until complete. Once you do complete it, you’ll have a stronger feeling of achievement.

It’s a great game, and all bullet hell fans owe it to themselves to pick this up. The sheer detail of the sprite graphics, crazy over the top weapons and explosions, combined with the usual techno/classic/rock music mix, ensures a shooter experience that only CAVE can offer.

However, I am going to end this review on a sour note, and that is that I’m a little worried that CAVE might begin to run out of puff. By that I mean that these ports are all well and good, but eventually players could tire of these arcade ports. I would love to see CAVE put their awesome talent towards a wholly original ‘bullet hell’ shooter, or at least a new entry in the DoDonPachi series.

Final Rating



DoDonPachi Blissful Death is out now for iPhone and iPod Touch for $4.99. Get it on the DoDonPachi Blissful Death - CAVE CO.,LTD.

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