Saturday, November 8, 2014

Desura Look - Phoenix Force

Another 2D shooter, I'm guessing this is also a cell-phone port. The Phoenix Force travels the globe looking for minions of evil, and then blows them away. It's an adequate time-waster, something you can play for a few minutes and still make some progress. This game is 100 stages of boss-fights. Now that doesn't mean there are 100 bosses. There are several types, and each stage can have up to four of them on the battlefield.

The Phoenix Force consists of five different phoenixes. Auto-fire is constantly on and they regularly trigger their special ability (if they have one). Basically all you're doing is dodging bullets. Fans of scoring systems or even just points in general are left out in the cold. No matter how many enemy bullets you rub up against, or how close you are to the boss when it's defeated, there are no bonus points of any kind. Merely surviving is enough to earn a gold star, or a power-up, or a speed-up. The only points earned are experience, which you can cash in for a stronger bird. I went with the ice-phoenix. He has a name but I don't care. All I care about is that his special ability can freeze bosses for a couple seconds and slow down their attacks.

That's the extent of the game really, just a lot of boss-fights. Due to the bite-sized nature of the game I stuck with it. The act of dodging bullets will always remain compelling to me. Perhaps it's a side-effect of the hundreds of 2D shooters I've played over the years. Hundreds? Really?! I mean, it definitely feels like hundreds sometimes. When you've got your face plastered onto the screen making those life or death millimeter-movements, everything starts to blend together.

But that's not all Phoenix Force has to offer! About mid-way through you unlock the option to fight random battles, 1,000 of them. I know what you're thinking: "A thousand boss-fights!? That's 10 times 100!!!" Yep, it is a pretty big number. The game even awards a gem for every random battle that's completed. Hopefully I never run into anyone that collected all 1,000 gems. That's just plain absurd.

Still, I have to give credit where it's due, some of the boss-fights are pretty neat. When every stage is self-contained, I guess it's a springboard to experiment with tons of combinations. Sure enough enemies can clutter the screen in bullets, but give them unique attacks that come from all different directions, and you'll see something that's rather impressive.

This screenshot directly above is level 100. The blue mummy fires yellow bullets that directly target the player, the pink mummy fires pink bullets that spread outward. The jolly green golem creates shields and throws stalactites with messy hit-boxes (they can sometimes kill you if they're close enough). The snake fires bullets that collide with other bullets to make bullet explosions. Side note: One day I'll do a shmup review and not even use the word "bullet", wouldn't that be astounding?

Anyway, with all four of these bastards firing at once, it's easy to get tripped up. I'll dodge the yellow, only to get hit with the pinks, I'll dodge both of those to get hit by the explosions. Worst of all is when I finally establish control, only to forget about those screwy stalactites. I died more times on this stage alone than one of those ridiculous hidden final bosses found in Cave shooters. Sure, a giant mecha-hornet can turn a screen hot pink and I'll die a dozen or so times, but this particular encounter from a random cell-phone game lead to more deaths, simply because it started beating me psychologically. I'd die near the end of the fight, then take 2-3 more deaths at the beginning of future attempts. In all fairness, Phoenix Force makes you restart the stage if you die. If you manage to get to one of those secret Cave bosses, you can (usually) continue as many times as you like and the boss (usually) doesn't regain health.

So Phoenix Force, eh..I suppose it's worth a look. This is one of many games I've received through purchasing indie bundles. It's guaranteed that I wouldn't have bought this game by itself, but now that I've played through it, it was kinda worthwhile. Well, mostly because of level 100.

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