Shoot Em Ups or “shmups” are a classic genre of 2D game that includes one single character trying to kill everything on screen with one weapon at a time from the back or side. When there is a heavy emphasis on the amount of objects on screen, it is known as a “bullet hell”. There have been some different themes and play styles that change up the feel of a shmups but Veyeral Games are trying to meld story, feelings, love and bullet hells together in one place together with some retro pixel art.
The story beings with an alien girl that happens to like a classical fairy is surrounded by monsters in a cave, and she must survive by “befriending” the monsters with her love powers. Your attacks are “love bullets” that you use to make all the giant monsters love you and defeat them. It’s an odd choice for a set of powers, especially in a bullet hell but it’s a nice change the to the format. In addition, while this game does tend to go to the emotional side of things often by bringing up very heavy topics involving anxiety, love, and depression it is also easy to interpret all the subtext as comical in its own right. For example they clearly intended the “love bullets” to be metaphorical in nature and went for the obvious joke there, even having your robot helper clarify that. However, when they are trying to make fairly obvious gaffs at something like that, but then also try to work in a very heavy subject theme, it leads to some identity issues because it can’t seem to decide whether or not to be serious. This leads to players liking one aspect of it and then being turned off by the other, which can ruin the appeal. Shmups have never been known for their story for the most part, other than maybe explaining why the robot or mad scientist boss is there at all. I appreciate the effort being put into explaining why you are here in the first place, instead of just having you play as some ship for no reason.
Instead of the shmup trope of having a ship as an avatar, you are now a girl that looks like a fairy and the art style changes don’t stop there. With your “love bullets” shaped as hearts and all the bosses being very colorful and stylized monsters, along with some very nice music to put you in the mood for battle it really adds to the ambience greatly. Unlike other shmups, you don’t really ever have any normal grunt enemies to kill, so all the emphasis is put on the bosses which encompass every stage. Every stage is on the shorter side, but there are a lot of different stages, each with different modifers like increased difficulty or some other change that you can choose to do or not to do when you choose the next stage. It makes for great replay-ability when a former boss with different modifiers is chosen, so you can show your growth of powers and skill and can make the fight a very different one from when you began your journey.
The natural progression of bosses is challenging yet has a smooth transition into the difficult, and with different difficulties being able to be added to each stage as you choose them makes for a very smooth gradual ascent into the crazy world of difficult bullet hells. This is a very different experience with the classical shmup architecture and yet not unwelcome. It does suffer from some identity issues and the delivery of its message, along with some less than stellar pixel art, but maybe the point is that it’s trying to straddle the line between creepy and funny, which invites discussion and analyzation.