REVIEW: Broken Pearl

From the weird and inventive Birth Order, to the equally-strange and nontraditional platformer X.S.E.E.D., Wide Pixel Games and Mikael Tillander have always succeeded in creating unique, infinitely-playable and fun games. Even others that I haven’t covered here, like Heavy Recoil and Twin Tiger Shark, have been quick favorites. The studio’s newest, Broken Pearl ($1.00), is no exception, taking the shooter genre onto a retro and vertically-scrolling path with a (potentially) hard-as-nails Bullet Hell.

If you’re even slightly-acquainted with shooters, Broken Pearl‘s setup is the typical stuff. You get two ships to choose from; a focused-fire variant that can plow through targets straight-ahead of it, and a spread-shot type that is better suited to damaging multiple enemies from multiple angles at once. You’re allocated a set number of lives and screen-clearing bombs (for emergencies, natch), then set loose to wreak havoc on a series of stages and their respective bosses. Oh, and probably a few thousand cannon fodder in-between.

Those foes aren’t likely to go gentle into that good night1, of course, littering the screen with plenty of bullets in a mesmerizing and ever-changing display of neon death. Thankfully, only the very center of your ship is vulnerable to their fire, (hopefully) resulting in some nimble maneuvering that will enable you to advance and aid in your high-score chasing2. You can also ‘rescue’ enslaved allies found in each stage, adding their guns and firepower to your ship for the duration of that current life.

Some of the heavier, bullet-sponge types will drop powerups that morph over time, which amounts to Broken Pearl‘s clever rewards payout. You can choose from a boost to your firepower (and any allies at your side), a score multiplier, or an additional bomb. Depending on your skill level and how much risk you’re willing to take on, it’s a simple but effective choice that helps newcomers as much as seasoned veterans. Both crowds will need the help.

Broken Pearl - Screen

While the phrases ‘a stiff challenge’ and ‘bullet hell’ tend to belong in the same sentence, it needs to be said that Broken Pearl IS difficult. The upside to that comment is that the game is only as hard as you make it, meaning as you practice and improve your own skills, the game’s inherent reward system— i.e., the bombs and weapon powerups— naturally decreases the challenge over time, with only yourself (and / or your ego) to blame upon death.

The game’s premise and mechanics may not be as bizarre as some of the studio’s previous titles, but Broken Pearl is still an easy recommendation to make. The game choreographs its version of a bullet ballet extremely-well, giving you ample challenge and that much more satisfaction when you eventually succeed and rage, rage against the dying of the light3.

  1. Yes, yes, the Dylan Thomas poem. Or villanelle, rather. Hey, they use poetry against us to sell jeans and wrestling these days, so what the hell. 
  2. You can upload your score to the game’s online leaderboard via your smartphone, where applicable. Always a clever work-around for the limitations of XBLIG. 
  3. Yup, back on the Thomas poem again. It got stuck in my head for some reason. 

11 thoughts on “REVIEW: Broken Pearl”

    1. Haha, always have to wish ‘theAntoni’ well! Merry Christmas, Chris, and I look forward to the half-dozen games of yours I’ll no doubt be playing …before the end of the year! 😀

    1. Thanks, David, and a Merry Christmas to you and yours! A Merry Christmas to you too, Edgar, as well as everyone that celebrates the holiday! Hopefully you’re enjoying the day with friends and family! 🙂

    2. Ouch! You got the ole’ Xmas Day shaft and had to work, eh? Companies sure love their employees, don’t they? 🙂 If it makes you feel any better (it won’t), I’ve got the rest of the week— and weekend— to work too, so I know the feeling. We’re a country of rabid Capitalists, what can we expect? 😀

      At the very least, I hope you found some time to enjoy the holiday. As much as I hate the stress that comes with it, I like the season anyway.

  1. And so begins another phase of the cycle that happens every time I see a new shmup:

    • Oooh! A new shmup, better have a quick look…
    • So many explosions, so many bullets, must buy!
    • This is awesome!
    • Ten minutes later: Man, I suck at shmups!
    • Maybe this will be the one that finally teaches me to master these things…
    • Several days later: That’s it! I’m never buying one of these dang things again!
    1. Ha, funnily enough, my list is similar:

      • Oooh! A new shmup, better have a quick look…
      • So many explosions, so many bullets, must buy!
      • This is awesome!
      • Ten minutes later: Man, I suck at shmups!
      • Maybe this will be the one that finally teaches me to master these things…

      … … …

      • Nope! No master, but I’m still having fun dying… oddly enough.
      • Several days later: Why do I keep coming back here to die!?!?
  2. I bought this game over the weekend.. I haven’t even made it past the third level yet, but it still kicks major butt. You can definitely tell the people who made “Twin Tiger Shark” were involved in making this little gem. Good review as well.

    1. Thank you, thank you. Yeah, I don’t normally agree with the lack of continues, but here it’s a mark of progress. I couldn’t beat the first level when I started, but then I eventually bested that. Then you’re making it to the third or fourth level without losing a ship, and you’re like ‘Oh, okay, I see what you were going for’. Really solid design all-around, too, so it’s still fun to play through despite the many deaths that will accompany it. 🙂

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