A number of high profile shmup pioneers, notably Cave and Triangle Service, have recently begun publishing their back catalogue on Steam. The Steam release of Bullet Soul sees developer MAGES.INC follow in their footsteps, by securing a PC debut for a title that was originally released on the Xbox 360 back in 2011.
Bullet Soul categorically falls within the bullet-hell genre, albeit compared to recent shmups that have appeared on Steam, it is actually refreshingly forgiving and accessible to newcomers. Of course, Bullet Soul is still bullet-hell, so players should expect the requisite amount of carnage and frequent death along the way.
Ashes to ashes.
One thing that that makes Bullet Soul accessible is the fact that it invites players to assault the enemy head on, rather than focus entirely on spacing and bullet gaps. Getting up close and personal when killing enemies is worth the risk, as it has the notable benefit of eradicating bullets from the field of play. The same is true of boss fights – every time the player does damage to a key area, the corresponding bullets will erode into grey dust. This grey dust is the ‘bullet soul,’ which can be collected by the player for points.
This mechanic gives Bullet Soul a unique tactical edge over other shmups, as it encourages the player to identify and engage with enemies that offer a larger threat in order to take them out as soon as possible. It’s a risk/reward strategy that becomes increasingly challenging, especially during later levels, but it also affords a great deal of satisfaction when large swathes of bullets disappear from an overwhelmingly crowded screen milliseconds before certain death.
There is an eclectic variety to Bullet Soul’s enemy design and the animations are very crisp. Despite the game’s very narrow field of play, the attention to detail is clear and appealing. The score is also excellent, providing the game with an appropriately cinematic accompaniment.
Short but sweet.
Bullet Soul is a little on the short side, even by shmup standards, with only five stages available to take on. However, the Steam version is priced competitively, and like all decent shmups, Bullet Soul provides some decent replay value incentives with multiple characters to experiment with, additional gameplay modes and the never-ending high score chase.
While this isn’t the most overwhelming amount of additional content ever seen in a shmup, Bullet Soul’s overall package and price point is fair. It should entertain newcomers and enthusiasts alike.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.