Bullet Soul (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 01.04.2017

Review for Bullet Soul on PC

As is usually the case for the shmups, the plot to Bullet Soul is practically non-existent. A motley crew of heroes has to put a stop to evil, or else the entire galaxy will be…destroyed? Destroying and/or enslaving the galaxy is usually what villains want right? Well, it's for the probably best not to think about it. One should not be too concerned about the story when there's hundreds of thousands of bullets to dodge. Therefore, just take a seat in one of three super-advanced ships and stop the baddies.

Normally in STGs, bullets are the only constant. They are infallible and can't be reasoned with. No matter what happens, the player can always count on one thing: all bullets have to be avoided. It doesn't matter if someone is controlling a WW2-era plane, a prototype spacecraft, or a psychic teenager. If they touch a bullet, they're done for. Outside of very rare circumstances, bullets remain a threat up until they fly off screen.

Bullet Soul is a rather unique case. Whenever an enemy is destroyed, their bullets immediately dissipate, as if their very soul had been ripped away. Commonly, this phenomenon is referred to as "bullet cancelling." It has made frequent appearances in other shmups, but usually there is some condition attached, such as the defeat of a boss. That isn't the case for this game. Due to the heavy firepower each playable ship has, most adversaries can be wiped out before they have a chance to clutter the screen with tiny death orbs. On the slim possibility they manage to unleash their payload; that, too, will disappear into the ether.

Screenshot for Bullet Soul on PC

Needless to say, veterans of the genre are going to be put off by this design decision. It's difficult to establish a rhythm when potential threats are so easily eliminated. Early on, the only time the player might find themselves dodging bullets is during a boss fight. However, since each boss is made up of multiple parts, it's possible to destroy cannon placements and earn temporary reprieves. This almost makes the process of dodging bullets feel like a novelty, simply because the player is no longer accustomed to it. Thankfully, the difficulty picks up after the first couple stages.

In order to get the most out of this game, it's imperative to learn the scoring system. There are numerous factors at play, and understanding their intricacies will keep things interesting. First off, there's a multiplier gauge, which rises whenever an enemy is destroyed. The catch is that the rate at which the gauge rises is determined by the player-ship's position. Hiding out near the bottom of the screen is a fine way to stay alive, but the score suffers. Thus, it's best to stay at or near the top. Naturally, this strategy greatly increases the probability of getting shot down, or outright colliding with an enemy ship, but that's what risk vs reward is all about.

Screenshot for Bullet Soul on PC

Secondly, there are innumerable bonuses for dealing with adversaries in a particular way. For example, let's say four enemy ships appear on-screen. Destroying them immediately is possible, but if the player hesitates, the enemies form a line. When that line of ships is eliminated, bonus points are awarded. These special awards aren't indicated by arrows or glowing objects, but it's easy to figure out how to collect them.

Finally, anyone capable of meeting certain conditions can challenge the second loop. What better way to achieve a high score than by going through the entire game again, only at a much higher difficulty? The second loop features more enemies, denser bullet patterns, and a true last boss. Anyone looking to maximise their score should also avoid using bombs or losing lives.

Screenshot for Bullet Soul on PC

Alongside the main game, this release of Bullet Soul includes additional modes. Every stage can be tackled individually in the Bancho mode, great for anyone who needs the extra practice. In Caravan mode, players are treated to a special stage. With two minutes on the clock, the goal is to attain as high a score as possible. All of the strategies learned in the main game apply here, so focus on staying near the top of the screen, while collecting all of the special bonuses. Lives are unlimited, but deaths can decimate one's chances of earning a high score.

The most substantial of the additions is Version B. Upon starting this mode, players will immediately notice a fourth playable ship. The damage output on this craft is bonkers. It's capable of melting anything, including bosses, in a very short time. Version B also makes changes to enemy layouts. The bullet patterns aren't quite as dense, but they're a bit faster and more direct. Extra lives are more frequent as well. Overall, this mode is easier, especially with the fourth ship, but it's still well worth playing.

Screenshot for Bullet Soul on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Bullet Soul is quite the oddity. Rarely has an STG emphasised bullet cancelling so much. On one hand, this unique quality certainly helps the game stand out, but on the other hand, it makes the difficulty feel a little uneven. The player will sometimes feel like they're just waiting for something to happen, but when it does, they might panic and lose their ship. Over time, they'll grasp an understanding of which enemies to focus on and how long it takes to destroy them. Once that groove is established, they can turn their attention towards the deep and rewarding scoring system. All in all, this is a strange yet very enjoyable shooter. Give it a go sometime.

Developer

Mages. Inc.

Publisher

Mages.

Genre

Shooter

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 Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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