Isbarah (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 12.03.2015

Review for Isbarah on PC

Isbarah is the first game release by Paris-based developer Leikir Studio and tells the story of a goddess called Iria, controlled by the player, who is tasked by her father, the ruler of the world of Isbarah to protect the world from falling into chaos due to beings known as the Designless, which are the unfinished manifested dreams of humans. On the Steam store page Isbarah is described as a "bullet hell," and in this regard it certainly does not disappoint. This is because rather than waste any time with platforming across levels, Isbarah gets straight to the action with every stage featuring a two-tiered boss - the first using railguns to take down the shield and the second involving a gruelling endurance of everything they throw at Iria before they are vulnerable to attack. The setup is simple but when there are bullets covering the screen things get a little chaotic, to say the least. Is Isbarah a rush of adrenaline or an exercise in frustration? Find out…

First things first, and what might be already quite apparent above - Isbarah is hard, really hard. That is on the easiest difficulty of normal, never mind the two tougher modes. Thankfully, it never feels like a tacked on challenge, nor does the game itself intentionally try to frustrate. The three game mechanics to assist in surviving the rain of bullets involve a dash movement using the right mouse button, a time slowing ability using left-shift, and, finally, the ability to form a temporary platform to either block projectiles for a time or to assist in jumping.

Three useful skills bound to smart key selections, as well as a visibly defined hit-box that floats around Iria, all come together to present a very efficient and comfortable to play experience that certainly helps to alleviate any potential frustration. There might be some initial head scratching at the lack of controller support, but it honestly plays very well using keyboard and mouse.

If there is one disappointment, it is that the mechanics literally always stay the same, with nothing thrown in to keep people on their toes, like changing the size of the spell radius, for instance. Stay in the giant circle until the spell is finished and then strike. Indeed the enemy attacks are programmed so replaying the levels over and over and learning the attack patterns is enough, although, granted, easier said than done. That said, however, the later bosses do throw in a few different elements to spice up their attacks.

Screenshot for Isbarah on PC

The story is certainly quite imaginative in its premise. It is interesting that the protagonist Iria is a powerful female character who can mix it with all the most powerful monsters, although somewhat disappointing that she is still mainly governed by the age-old trope of the controlling father. Before each boss, there is a brief comic-strip-style cut-scene and conversation but it isn't exactly extensive and it is a story that could have been fleshed out a good deal more.

Special mention has to go to the soundtrack, which is an endless exhilarating heavy rock/metal guitar riff that really keeps the blood pumping and complements the technicolour extravaganza of bullets coming from all angles of the screen. The graphics don't let it down either, with a real contrasting mix between dark, desolate, hellish landscapes filled with reds and oranges, to the inside of deep caves and strange twisted forests with vivid green added to the colourful enemy spells. Actually, the heroine Iria is quite plain and boring in her character design compared to everything else that is rather over the top.

Screenshot for Isbarah on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Isbarah is a title that deserves a lot more recognition than it has thus far received due to the amount of things it does very well. It is an immensely challenging title but one that is equally as playable, even by genre newcomers. The developer didn't overload the game with mechanics and kept things relatively simple and fluid to control and, therefore, avoided much of the frustration from other similar bullet hell efforts. What would be pleasing is a sequel that gives more depth to the story and keeps gamers on their toes with regards to more boss mechanics thrown at the main character, Iria.

Developer

Leikir Studio

Publisher

Neko Entertainment

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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