Following great critical success with Chronos Twins on both WiiWare and Nintendo DSiWare, as well as the superb Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ on both DSiWare and Nintendo DS, EnjoyUp is back with another download title, in the form of 99Bullets for the DSi’s online shop.
EnjoyUp Games has a habit of taking a small theme, translating it onto the hardware it is currently working on, and then crafting something deliciously addictive. It happened with the fantastic action shooter Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ, both on DSiWare and at retail on DS in the US, and is apparent from even the first few tries of new downloadable shooter 99Bullets. This latest offering is a retro-themed space shooter with a twist; ”to lose a bullet is to lose a life, and to lose a life is to lose a bullet,” so the game itself says. Quite the interesting prospect, right? Players take on the role of a character named V-99 who has taken it upon himself to save the galaxy IRATA 2601 from the threat of Black Eye and his nefarious underlings.
Right from the very start, 99Bullets feels like a fan-developed project, with skeletal visuals that include simplistic polygons floating around each stages and a main character that is simply a green outline with a number on his chest that reduces with each bullet fired or hit taken. Even the soundtrack has an air of modesty to its composition, which adds to the nostalgic feel EnjoyUp has attempted to emulate here.
The on-screen information is quite straight-forward, with the amount of bullets remaining displayed top and centre, with the enemies’ energy top-left and level score top-right. Basically, the main layout of the screen is wonderfully conducive to a fast-paced shooting style affair where clutter would otherwise be a killer. Anyone thinking that the whole shoot-and-lose-a-life mechanic means they can deftly dodge the onslaught of rockets, bullets, projectiles, and obstacles that grace every space level are sadly mistaken. Objective Points, which are shown next to the overall point total, are the key to avoid breezing through each stage with near enough all 99 bullets/lives remaining. In order to hit the target quota for every round, a certain amount of sacrifice is required, and to achieve the highest scores a fine balance is required.
Touch-screen controls are not featured in 99Bullets at all, with the focus being on the face buttons instead. Everything has been kept extremely intuitive and simple enough to appeal to all demographics. All that is required is to press the A, B, X or Y buttons to make V-99 shoot in a particular direction, whilst moving the D-pad to keep the hero moving around. By using 99Bullets’ scoring system of granting bonuses for the number of defeated enemies in a row, how many bullets were retained overall, and so on, it’s possible to rack up some highly impressive totals. It all comes down to braveness, not just levels of skill, since shooting your load early on can leave V-99 vulnerable and exposed to a swift death before completion of a stage, yet being too conservative may lead to the required target not being reached. EnjoyUp has once more delivered a highly engaging shooter with 99Bullets that may not be as glamorous as Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ, but certainly does have more of a pure ‘shmup’ feel to it.
Brutally tough, even on the easiest of the three difficulty modes, 99Bullets actually becomes highly addictive thanks to its ingenious mechanic of each bullet representing a life. The balance required when attempting to reach a specific points target before a stage ends is delightful.
Visually barren, and although purposeful, it does bear strong resemblance to old PC shooters from the early 1990s, with some slowdown also creeping in at times.
Retro through and through, possibly to the point of being too basic on some tracks, but there is definitely a certain charm to certain tunes. However, the voice work included definitely needed more enthusiasm putting into it.
Being forced to start through the arcade mode from scratch after dying may seem harsh, but each stage’s rapid-fire nature ensures levels of tedium never really increase.
For a mere 500 Nintendo Points, 99Bullets is another resounding success for EnjoyUp, giving gamers a much needed retro-shooter that is filled with the usual core shmup addictiveness, but with a brilliantly fresh idea of sacrificing lives to build up points that adds a whole new element to the standard fare and helps to make 99Bullets one of the most unique DSiWare releases so far. A must for space shooter fans.