Monday, 16 May 2011

Which One Of Those Dots Is Me?: Game 0008

Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is sure to split anyone who plays it into two firm camps. Those that die within seconds of pressing the start button and scream: 'Arrrrgghhhh, that game just raped my eyes' and those that die within seconds of pressing the start button and scream: 'Arrrrgghhhh that game just raped my eyes'. The difference? Whether the player grins from ear to ear jabbing the start button for another try, or simply stands there scratching their head much like asking neanderthal man to describe his favourite iPhone app. Let me make this very clear: Bangai-O is NOT for everyone. Developer Treasure's over the top shooter/puzzler hybrid is now in its third incarnation and its not the easiest series to get to grips with. Those expecting a traditional mech-shooter need not apply. However those that persevere past its 'uber bullet hell' exterior will be rewarded with one of the most innovative and addictive video games ever to grace a console.

In Bangai-O going in guns blazing is never a good strategy. The series is and always has been a test of patience, of risk and reward, a subtle blend of exploration, experimentation and all out fireworks when things get seriously heavy. Like Platinum's Vanquish, the game's mechanic rests on a knife edge balancing act of resources. Playing things steady and slow, before finding an opening to unleash screen filling counter attacks. These counter attacks work in relation to the number of enemy bullets or missiles in your vicinity. If your surrounded by 100 bullets when you retaliate, you'll fire 100 missiles back, get surrounded by 1000 bullets and you'll fire 1000 back, forcing you to steer yourself into 'seat of your pants'/imminent death territory in order to unleash level destroying retaliations. The largest of these attacks triggering a satisfying 16-bit 'slow down' effect letting you indulge in the majesty of the damage you're about to unleash. Your mech is also equipped with two switchable guns (the types determined by the levels themselves) and dash and freeze attacks, that can push threw or halt enemy fire respectively and as with all Treasure's greatest titles you'll need to employ every single trick up your sleeve to finish the game's huge selection of 100 levels.

The levels themselves are selectable in any order from the off, meaning that trickier challenges can be left and then revisited as you progress further into the game. Bangai-O HD takes all the anarchy laid down by the previous games and pushes everything up to eleven. The super smooth 3D graphics not straying too far from their sprite based origins as to be unrecognisable, but allowing for ever more complicated Spiro-graph inspired missile explosions. Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury really is an incredibly accomplished video game celebrating, in true Treasure style, what it means to simply be a video game. No other developer would dare to twist the mech shooter genre so far as to reduce your 5 storey high mech to a mere centimetre, have you collect fruit like you were Pac-Man, or volley a sports centre worth of footballs at robots considerably bigger than you. And you've got to love 'em for it. Its Bangai-O's fiendish tests of mental dexterity however that clearly stands the title out as something quite individual. Like the best puzzle games, the challenges on offer force you to try, re-evaluate your strategy and try again, and do so with that often elusive 'one more go' ingredient.

Favorite Moment: Early sections of some stages often serve up tiny cityscapes, that when blasted reveal a plethora of power ups. Drilling these tiny conurbations with missiles unleashes a satisfying string of Wilhelm screams as the occupants inside crumble with their buildings.

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