Time to go to school: Bullet Hell School that is.
Well this is a bit late isn’t it? Cave has made a number of hard bullet hell shooters available the past couple of years, but it isn’t until now the training starts. Dodonpachi Maximum is a MBS, Maximum Bullet Simulator. The idea is that you are just training, and there is a story line inserted to give it a sense of progression. While playing however it is not far from any schmup from Cave: bullets everywhere, and a generally sense of sensory overload.
With a line-up of bullet hell shooter ports for iOS Cave has managed to perfect the touch controls. Wherever you place your finger on the screen you get relative controls. These are tight enough to allow you to dodge with precision between incoming blasts. The ship fires automatically, and unlike most other shoot em ups in the Dodonpachi universe there is only your standard shots firing. No switching to lasers here, which limits the diversity of the game.
Building up combos by constantly killing fills the bomb meter, and to unleash this screen clearing weapon you simply apply a second finger to the screen. It can also be setup to go off using a quick double tap. The amount of score you get from killing an enemy depends on how close you are to them. If you are a bit chicken like me, and hovers at the bottom of the screen the bonus shields are quite small. Live like a tiger though, and you will be awarded. One of my favourite pro-verbs is from the classic series Red Dwarf:
The Cat: There’s an old cat proverb that goes, “It’s better to live one hour as a tiger than an entire lifetime as a worm.” Rimmer: There’s an old human proverb – “Whoever heard of a worm-skin rug?”
Between levels you get lives replenished, and the current path is shown in old school pyramid fashion. The story slowly progresses, but as mentioned earlier it isn’t that important. While playing the game though it feels like something is kind of lacking. The enemies are transparent to give the sense of simulation. To me this might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but somehow it doesn’t translate into the intensity of earlier Dodonpachi games. I want to have proper tanks, planes and cannons to blast away to make it feel truly intense.
The exception to the rule of having simulated enemies is the bosses, or at least that is the sensation since they generally fill up one fourth of the screen estate. Bosses have insane output of bullets, lasers and missiles making them intense. As there is only one auto firing weapon there is little to do in these battles, but dodging and determining when to use the bomb.
The endless streams of blue, and red bullets, lasers and missiles are well made both when it comes to having cool patterns and clear graphics. Patterns are insane combining circular attacks with straight and rainbow patterns. As most bullets are quite large it is often quite easy to find paths, especially if you hover like a worm at the bottom of the screen.
The presentation is crisp, and clear. This is both a positive, and a negative in my book. Previous Dodonpachi games have been ports from different arcade machines, and have had a cool style with a lot of personality. Perhaps a bit lacking in clarity, and on a small screen I have had a cramped sensation. With Dodonpachi Maximum a lot of this personality is lost, and it could just as well have been named Bullet Hell Shooter X. The positive is that the clear graphics makes it easier to play, as bullets are not hidden behind clouds and debris.
I have always enjoyed the music, and sound effects found in games from Cave. The music is really great in Dodonpachi Maximum featuring remixed versions of tunes found in previous Dodonpachi games. High powered up-tempo tunes that truly set the mood. The sound effects are also great, and the girly voice warning me is cool. There are some instances where the music fades out before boss battles that feel weird. I am not sure that this is intentional to enhance the impact once a large boss enters, or something wonky with the timing.
Dodonpachi Maximum is a universal game, and the first to be optimized for iPhone 5. That is only a half-truth, as the status bar is showing when playing on the iPhone 5. The gameplay area isn’t improved on the 5 either, just slightly stretched.
Dodonpachi Maximum is probably the best place to start in the Cave universe of bullet hell shooters. It has an easy mode, and is overall easier to play due to the lack of debris. The lack of personality compared to the ports is a let-down for us veterans though.
Dodonpachi Maximum $11.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Cave Co., Ltd.