Shooters are plentiful, though it takes a particularly gleeful bastard to put together a Bullet Hell and call it entertainment. It’s a type meant for purists who appreciate the fine Japanese art of cramming as much digital death onscreen as possible, for the quick and scary-calm, not aspirants and daytrippers like myself (though we’re still invited). Chronoblast (80 MSP) doesn’t bring anything new to being a Bullet Hell, but it is a solid shooter nonetheless.
The basics apply. Scoring is handled via chains, collecting coins (to fill a meter) and keeping streaks alive. You can alternate between a spread shot and a focused laser, trading off maneuverability for firepower. Bombs function as ‘health’. Using one will clear the screen of enemies and bullets while subtracting one tick off your life. Acquiring enough spare change will drop a ‘super’ into play, which gives you a temporary (but not invincible) reprieve and damage boost.
You can choose from four lovely ladies that refuse to match suit or hair color because individualism is important when your life is on the line. Their ship size and shot style vary as well, but they all have the same tiny ‘hit box’ in the center that you must play keep away with. There will be bullets so you know the drill— it’s safe (ironic choice of words) to say you will always be in harm’s way, but it’s all in where and when you position yourself. This tutorial explains it better than I can.
Difficulty is what defines the game, and comes in three types. ‘Autobomb’ is the easiest, and probably the only option most of us can ever hope to reach the end with. As the name implies, your bombs / shields are deployed automatically once you’re hit, saving you the trouble and reflexes. Consider it a ‘Bullet Hell Airbag’ (I’m coining that phrase if someone hasn’t already). The other ‘Normal’ and ‘Hell’ settings drop this feature, leaving it to you to manage your protectional finances all on your own while upping the bullet count to something akin to suicide by stupidity. It’s the mini-bosses and bosses that really drive this point home, as outlasting their barrages means relying on and recognizing shot patterns (having an extra ‘super’ or bomb helps too).
It only looks impossible… Nah, it’s impossible.
In total, the game runs five stages deep, punctuated by a story snippet. There’s no extraneous parts or modes, save for the difficulties and an always-essential ‘practice’ option, though there are online leaderboards for each of the challenge tiers, as well as for the local co-op. Reserving a high score and then pointing and laughing at the random gamertags below you is of course required.
Shooters aren’t known for their expansive content, more so for their ability to break you over and over until you’ve said uncle or evolved to meet the demand. And such it goes here. If you’re like me, though, you never tire of dodging death in all its ubiquitous forms, specifically as blooming rings of neon fire that will take your lunch money. In that regard, Chronoblast won’t let you down.