August 20, 2015 9:45 AM | John Bridgman
Not too long ago, I discussed a new shmup coming to Steam. Stylish with lots of customization, Reign of Bullets caught my attention, leaving me wanting to see more. Now available on Steam, I can definitely say Critical Bit has turned their light hearted foray into the genre into a title that offers a lot of fun for your time.
The comic book style is delightful, with lots of bright colours and big, bold sprites. I was worried the large sprites would be a problem, but it makes the action easier to follow, and while it can get hectic, it avoids being overwhelming. It does get a bit busy in places, but these moments are infrequent and don't last long.
I was really impressed by the sound design. The soundtrack is fun, though not too memorable, however the sound effects are spot on. From explosions and machine gun fire, to enemies off screen, or your jet grinding along the pavement, the game gives you distinct audio cues for all the action. This keeps you informed of the situation without needing to focus your eyes elsewhere, and it's very helpful indeed.
Flying is easy to control with the mouse, and it doesn't take get long to get used to positioning at all. The only thing you might have to adapt to is the play area being slightly bigger than the screen, so you need to move up and down fairly regularly so you don't miss things to shoot. Especially the large truck convoys on the highway below you which hide new gear and are worth quite a lot of scrap to spend on your upgrades.
The upgrade system is the game's bread and butter, and it's everything I hoped it would be. Not only can you upgrade your jet itself, but you can install different types of guns, and position in them anywhere on your jet, as well as any direction you feel appropriate. The facings are not locked in any single direction, so you there's a lot of strategic decision making for you before you go through each level, and it's a lot of fun. In addition, you can also upgrade the guns themselves, giving them mods to make them deal more damage, split on contact, or spread on fire. The level of customization is an absolute gem.
What surprised me most of all was how light-hearted the game turned out to be. Loading screens show the main character's in-universe Twitter feed, where he addresses his friends and the Titan Corporation about his actions. From these little bits of comic anecdotes, you also get gameplay hints sometimes, as well as just a laugh as you see your character fire off jokes about (and to) the corporation he's going after. Not to mention, the very reason he's fighting gave me a chuckle. It's not revenge for destroying his garage, not rising up in outrage against capitalism, nothing like that. It's for financial compensation. He just wants his fair share.
It's also a very approachable game. With several levels of difficulty available, even players who aren't into shmups, or who are just trying to get into them in the first place can have a great time. And as their skills increase, so too can they increase the difficulty. The game allows you to replay any of the levels, on any of the difficulty levels, and thanks to the level of customization, this translates into an outstanding amount of replayability. Also, thanks to the relatively short length of the levels, you can easily sit down and play this game in short bursts if you want to keep from getting burnt out on it.
Reign of Bullets grabbed my attention the first time I'd heard of it, and I'm really glad that it exceeded my expectations. Its bright and colourful presentation, as well as its variety of difficulty settings and depth of customization makes it a great entry point for people who don't usually play shmups, so if you're wanting to give one a go, give this one some of your time. If you're already into the genre, I recommend still giving it a try, since there's so much replayability in the game from all the modifications you can do to your jet.