Devil Engine (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 29.03.2019

Review for Devil Engine  on Nintendo Switch

Sometime in the future, mankind is nearly annihilated by an otherworldly force. In response, they developed an AI system known as the Devil Engine. With highly advanced weapons and faultless calculations, nothing in the entire universe can withstand its power. It was at this point that the humans realized they made a grave mistake. Not long after, the creation turned against its masters. All that remains now is Andraste, the sole ship that escaped the AI's clutches.

Upon starting Devil Engine for the first time, players are promptly kicked in the teeth, by a staggering combination of high-speed bullets and overwhelming enemy forces. Well, this is a shmup after all. The expectation is that the first several attempts aren't going to result in success. However, what we have here is a tale of two games. While they have some good ideas, neither manages to reach the point of being both challenging and enjoyable.

For now, back up a bit and consider the aftermath of that humiliating first attempt. After being treated to the first of many 'Game Over' screens, the Very Easy mode is unlocked. There are two levels of difficulty, the default being Very Hard. Veterans, not thrilled with the idea of demeaning themselves on the "kids and cowards" setting, will decide to give Very Hard another shot. They'll keep trying, but start hitting walls as early as the first stage's boss. Anyone who manages to reach the second stage will be bamboozled by unpredictable rings of fire, not to mention a boss that's just a little too quick with a flamethrower.

While all this is going on, the person holding the controller is still trying to come to grips with Andraste. It's a versatile ship, considering that it has three weapons to choose from, powerful missiles, and a burst for absorbing nearby bullets. However, its weapons are highly situational and do little damage. The spreadshot is decent for most situations, but it tends to leave enemies onscreen for too long, giving them time to fill the screen with death. The laser is stronger, but its range is abysmal. Even then, it's still more useful than the huntershot, as this only is nice for hitting out-of-reach enemies, and not much else. If Andraste manages to reach a boss with huntershot equipped, another Game Over screen is all but guaranteed.

Screenshot for Devil Engine  on Nintendo Switch

Stuck with underpowered weapons, the pilot is constantly on the defensive, doing whatever they can to avoid the constant enemy fire. Frequent usage of the burst will improve their chances of survival, but this leads to another problem. Bursting kills the multiplier. The bulk of the scoring system revolves around destroying lots of foes, and reaching a point where every kill is worth six times its normal value. Extra bombs and extra lives are handed out at 5,000 and 50,000 points, respectively. This is all well and good, but achieving high scores requires aggressive play. That's a tall hurdle when the odds are so clearly stacked in the enemy's favour.

Eventually you will tire of only seeing the first two stages, and you'll give in to the temptation of Very Easy mode. In short, this difficulty is far more manageable, but still prone to quirks. Bullets move much slower than before, bosses aren't nearly as durable, and numerous attacks have been toned down. What happens next is that the leading cause of death becomes something different, something unexpected.

Since the earliest days, the old adage "trial and error" has been synonymous with shmups. There is a limit to how far it should go however. Even on the Very Easy setting, Devil Engine makes the mistake of withholding critical information. Often players are given warning that an attack is coming, but they're left without an idea of how it works, or where it goes. In the third stage, a giant snake-like mid-boss fires lasers from off-screen. At first, pilots won't notice it, and get completely blindsided. Next time around, they'll catch a glimpse of a purple trail that supposedly indicates where the lasers will go. They'll move out of the way, only to get sniped a second later. Eventually they'll figure out that the idea is to move and keep moving, until they're clearly out of the way.

Screenshot for Devil Engine  on Nintendo Switch

Later on, in the fifth stage, there are searchlights scanning for hostiles. Once the Andraste is spotted, turrets in the floor and ceiling will activate, pelting the hapless ship. Again, players know that something is going to happen when they get caught by the searchlight. The problem is that they won't have any idea of how the turrets work. Basically, they're forced to spend a few lives just to figure everything out. Also worth noting is that these traps don't appear in a vacuum. There are still plenty of enemies throwing bullets in every direction.

Then there's the matter of Very Hard mode. No matter how much progress one makes in Very Easy, it means absolutely zilch on the default setting. The lousy weapons are a big factor, not to mention the frequent attacks that are nearly impossible to predict. Then there are the bosses, which are absolutely ridiculous. They have multiple phases, a lot of HP, and navigating their relentless onslaughts feels like a hopeless endeavour. It's as if everything has to be approached in a very specific developer-intended manner. Any deviation is rewarded with instant death.

There are some great ideas though. One of the most clever is the unlock system. With every trip to the 'Game Over' screen, the player's score is added to a grand total. Achieving certain milestones will lead to extras like new modes, more continues, and a second playable ship. What's especially neat is that since the score resets with every continue - it's in one's best interest to stick with single credit attempts. This is a fine way to practice for 1CCs.

Screenshot for Devil Engine  on Nintendo Switch

Scathach, the unlockable ship, has a higher learning curve, but can be devastating once mastered. Its spreadshot is very weak, but when focused on enemies, it builds a special three-level gauge. When expended at level 1, the ship is protected by a temporary shield. Level 2 results in a powerful laser blast. Finally, emptying the third level gauge causes a screen-clearing super bomb. There are also lock-on lasers which are exceptionally powerful, but a little slow. Fantastic for killing bosses, at least.

The Challenge mode features 12 different scenarios, all of them extremely difficult and quite unique. A couple feature bosses that don't appear in the main game. One of the unlockables is an extra stage. This serves as a prequel, as it features an entirely different threat for the Andraste and Scathach to deal with. A Boss Rush, Expert mode, along with an assortment of graphic filters and special options round out the generous supply of extras.

Unfortunately, the neat features only go so far. As mentioned earlier, this is two games in one. The first is absurdly hard, while the other is too easy. Both difficulty settings are further marred by numerous level and enemy-design quirks. The end result is just plain aggravating. A balance between enjoyment and challenge is never reached. Very Easy isn't rewarding enough, and it takes the patience of a Shaolin monk to appreciate the Very Hard setting.

Screenshot for Devil Engine  on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Altogether, Devil Engine is an intriguing STG that's held back by rough fundamentals. Given enough tuning, it could turn out to be welcome entry in any fan's library. There's plenty of content, and the two playable ships are impressively realized. However, the weak arsenal is a constant nuisance. Attempting to destroy massive bosses or even moderately-sized foes with a pea shooter isn't fun. There are options for quickly eliminating adversity, but getting past their constant waves of fire is also an ordeal. Simply put, it feels like this is trying too hard to break its players.

Developer

Protoculture Games

Publisher

DANGEN Entertainment

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

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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