Tag Archives: Imported from Japan

REVIEW: ESPERriririnTelekinesisTIME

Forget the unwieldy title (hey, at least you don’t have to write it out several times over the course of this review1), the goofy art style, and the mention of rainbows, ESPERriririnTelekinesisTIME ($1.00) is anything but a kiddie attempt at an indie game dumped onto the marketplace in time to beat a deadline. Rather, it’s a super tricky, brutally-difficult bullet hell shooter… with a telekinetic twist.

The shooter part is standard practice, asking you to weave through a screen full of bullets, or lasers, or enemy ships, or any number of flashy, death-causing objects. The amount of trouble escalates as you advance, requiring the usual nimble moves and muscle memory. Your focus, however, should be on the two main ‘boss’-type enemies that populate the room. Defeating them is the objective.

All well and good and somewhat straightforward, but it’s the game’s ‘telekinesis’ skill that takes things a step further. As soon as a level and its ensuing bullet chaos begins2, a bar at the top begins filling up. Once it’s ready, you can unleash it to temporarily stop time and shift that stage’s enemies around using the thumbsticks. This works to both give you a breather in the cramped spaces and to highlight any weaknesses in the bosses’ original starting points.

Levels are actually fixed in place, one-room affairs. Though I’d consider them more as puzzles than a simple background to do battle on, as each stage is a riddle you need to solve in order to kill what you have to and advance. Some require you to dodge bullets or learn bullet patterns, yes, while others require you to wait out your telekinesis gauge in order to move enemies into range so you can attack them. It’s clever design, maddeningly so once you’ve died a few dozen times trying to figure out a solution.

ESPERriririnTelekinesisTIME - Screen

Enjoy the demo stage; that’s as ‘easy’ as you’ll get.

That said, and, depending on your tolerance for bullet hells and constant failure (that’s meant to teach you a valuable lesson, natch), ESPERriririnTelekinesisTIME‘s tricks can turn your mood around really fast. Just as quickly as you’re jubilantly celebrating your victory in one stage, the next’s seemingly-impossible mechanics will have you creating new curse words on the fly. Some of the backgrounds, too, can be distracting, swirling and obscuring bullets and potentially ruining a run that might otherwise be perfect.

The difficulty of the room simply amplifies those issues even more. This is a game that can be incredibly rewarding… and incredibly frustrating. ESPERriririnTelekinesisTIME will not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s absolutely an intriguing take on a bullet hell shooter that you shouldn’t pass up based on looks alone.


  1. I mean ‘copy and paste’, of course, but still. It’s slightly agitating. I’ve gotta right-click the mouse and everything, and then the name runs on soooooo long that it wraps around the margin and makes everything look funny, and then I’m like, ‘Damn, what can I do to fix this?’, and then that stresses me out for a few seconds. This is so tough, you guys don’t even know. 
  2. And trust me, things get busy fast. The game’s ‘demo’ stage is a cakewalk, and not nearly indicative of the difficulty you’ll face moving forward. Just an FYI. 
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REVIEW: GERONEKO

We’ve all heard our share of apocalyptic and End of the World tales, the cool and the serious, the strange and the strange-yet-could-be-true, but GERONEKO ($1.00) features one of the most bizarre world-ending storylines I’ve yet come across. When the Earth is suddenly destroyed in some kind of cataclysmic event1, a cat riding a ‘Super Space Vacuum Cleaner’ comes along, needing to shave the fur off a whole bunch of space animals. You can then use that hair to build a new planet, and start life as we know it over again.2

So, okay, that’s that. GERONEKO started out life as a Japanese Game Jam title, made the move to PSM (PlayStation Mobile? Remember those games? RIP.), and now finds itself on XBLIG. Because why not. It plays loosely as a ‘shooter’, although there are no guns or bullets here, just a single-screen black hole slowly pulling you and said space animals slowly towards the center to meet your certain doom, no doubt. You ‘shave’ these critters by passing over them, and it’s game over if any of them are sucked into the black hole before they’ve been shaved. Bizarre, but simple enough.

The game’s ‘Original’ setting is bare-bones and almost pointless; it asks you to shave as many animals as you can before your fuel runs out, then just ends without tallying your score or offering up anything else. ‘Arranged’ mode is a little meatier. Here, your ship can be refueled (using floating tuna cans, natch) to give you additional time, and you’ll have to avoid flying dumbbells3 during your space barber shop duties. You must reach a handful of score plateaus, with the action picking up at each turn.

GERONEKO - Screen

Apt description; checks out.

Things can get a tad hairy4, but minus the J-Rock track that kicks in after you’ve scored a certain amount in ‘Arranged’ mode, the gameplay doesn’t evolve much beyond that. More animals to shave, more dumbbells to avoid, more fuel to collect. If you’re good enough, you can unlock a bonus game afterwards to pad your score, pitting you against a ‘space ninja’ that hurls yet even more dumbbells at you. The future is bleak, my friends. And loaded with dumbbells.

And so it goes. GERONEKO sure has a unique premise, but very little else going for it gameplay-wise. It’s just too basic, and while it might hold your interest for a minute or maybe two, it’s more likely going to join a short list of XBLIGs where you literally stand up after and ask ‘What the hell did I just play?’


  1. According to the story, God said ‘Enough,’ and it includes the lines, in order, ‘All of life to live in the earth despair / Who has abandoned the faith, / In addition, a person was vomiting.’ I realize this is probably a Google Translate gone awry (we’ve all been there), but it’s still pretty funny to read, so far as apocalyptic Earth stories go. 
  2. No, you’re not high and I’m not either (I think), that’s the premise. I warned you it was bizarre. 
  3. A space cat’s #1 sworn enemy, apparently. I mean, they are heavy bastards, and it would probably hurt pretty bad to be nailed by one in orbit around a black hole, so it makes a kind of sense. 
  4. Pun very much intended. 

REVIEW: PLARINET

From the developers of ‘that strange symbol game about tree masturbation (…I think)‘ comes their next game… the not-as-strange or as obtusely-named PLARINET ($1.00). Oh, and you’ll be pleased to hear it’s an actual game this time around, not some interactive nature porn. In fact, PLARINET‘s actually quite good fun. I dare say developer HITMARK BROTHERS has— if you’ll excuse the easy pun— hit the mark with this one1.

PLARINET is an arcade-ish / shooter game set in hostile space. As an astronaut with his very own shuttle, you’ll be exploring the galaxy on a single screen, rocketing or space-walking to various planets that suddenly spring up from the ether. Once there, you’ll mine these planets by hand— an impressive feat— collecting various items that represent all of Humanity and its body of artistic merits (sports, music, entertainment, …nudie magazines?), in order to form an ‘Akashic Record’2. Which is… Er… Just…. just know that you’ll be collecting a lot of stuff, and working towards a high score.

Of course, your work has not gone unnoticed by the local alien population, which either hates Humanity, or things like Basketball… …it’s probably Humanity. Out on your own, exploring / mining, you are vulnerable to enemies and passing planetoids, as well as the resulting explosion / vacuum that each planet leaves behind once it has been completely mined. Your shuttle, however, works as both a means of transportation and as a weapon, allowing you to shoot at said aliens that inhabit any given planet and spawn repeatedly.

This trade-off in mechanics presents quite the conundrum, you see. While you can only ‘dig’ as the astronaut, you need the ship to survive and fend off enemies. Killing those enemies drops food, which the astronaut needs to refill his health, but this uses the ship’s power, which is replenished by batteries you unearth during excavation (the universe is made of energy, after all; why not fill the planets with batteries?) It’s a vicious— albeit clever and fun— cycle, forcing you to manage fuel and balance between work and necessity.

PLARINET - Screen

Possible premise for Dead Space 4: Instead of cracking a planet and digging up a religious ‘Marker’, the USG Ishimura discovers a ‘Tiny Boy Pissing’ statue instead. The narrative will never be the same.

PLARINET certainly keeps things fresh and challenging, constantly randomizing new threats and rewards, like derelict vessels to explore for items, giant UFOs hiding inside planets, rogue spaceships, or a rainbow-spewing comet that drops multiple items (and some potentially rare ones) for you to scoop up. Those items can and will repeat, though, with no clear way to force new objects to appear. Thanks to that same random nature, you can play forever and never get the specific item you need to complete the game3.

Luckily, the game and its mechanics are interesting enough that total victory isn’t important. It’s the journey, man, the journey is what makes the trip worthwhile, and as a pick-up-and-play arcade type with a style of weird all its own, PLARINET delivers.


  1. A ‘Happy Ending’ for all, and no shame the next morning! 
  2.  According to Wikipedia, it’s ‘a compendium of mystical knowledge supposedly encoded in a non-physical plane of existence known as the astral plane.’ Far out, brother. 
  3. I once survived for close to forty-five minutes, never finding the final three items to complete my deck. I was a sad astronaut. Space was angry that day, my friend. 

REVIEW: Nandeyanen!? – The 1st Sûtra

It’s not every day your Bullet Hell stars a super long-nosed demon that’s been asleep for a few thousand years, only to be immediately thrust into a long-brewing battle upon waking. Oh, and your lady fox1 has been kidnapped. That’s bound to make anyone cranky. Nandeyanen!? – The 1st Sûtra2 ($2.99) gives you a shooter steeped in Japanese mythology, in particular the Tengu and a war with the Yōkai (all of them folk / supernatural beings). The game features a gorgeous watercolor art style, with pretty transitions and effects within the stages themselves. It’s quite beautiful to look at.

Shame you don’t get much time to admire the scenery or listen to the music tracks, as something is usually trying to kill you… with an excessive amount of bullets. The Yōkai foot soldiers come in many flavors, but the real focus (and challenge) is at the end of a level. The game’s mini-bosses and main bosses can be a tough match-up for Tengu-man, tossing out thousands of bullets for you dodge. Like most Bullet Hells, though, your character has a very distinctive hit zone (belt buckle), allowing you to wade through a sea of fire and still manage to come out on the other side unscathed.

This is, of course, provided you have quick reflexes and know how to break shields / direct fire back at the enemy. Nandeyanen!? is more than a mere shooter, as its successful completion will require you to get acquainted with some basic mechanics, like bullet-canceling bombs, a reflective counterattack, and using your loyal familiars (spirits) to attack stronger foes and / or collapse their shields, making them temporarily vulnerable to your fire. If that sounds overly-complicated, I assure you it’s not.

The game is a still a shooter underneath, a matter of following patterns and noticing the routes you need to take. Yet its character shines through in the environments and enemy design, in bits of brief dialog before each fight, to give some ‘meat’ to the otherwise breezy events. If you’ve collected all of a given stage’s ‘runes’ (dropped by defeated enemies), you can save yourself some trouble and knock off a chunk of the boss’s health beforehand. These battles can get a little hectic to say the least, with several volleys of bullets to carefully maneuver through and simultaneously return fire.

Nandeyanen - The 1st Sutra - Screen

Unfortunately, the impressive visuals and ample challenge mask an extremely-short adventure; just three stages in total. It should run you no more than a half-hour of playtime. There’s no real reason to repeat the game either, unless you want to try another difficulty level or shuffle through some lovely concept art. To be fair, The 1st Sûtra marks the, ah, …first ‘chapter’ of the game’s story, but at $3, the asking price may be a bit much for the content it delivers. It remains to be seen what the cost of future3 chapters will be.

Frustrations with its brevity aside, Nandeyanen!? – The 1st Sûtra is still one of the better Bullet Hell shooters I’ve played on the marketplace, especially for the rich visual style and folk history. Developer Tchagata Games could have just as easily thrown together some hasty art and backgrounds and called it a wrap for its first project; the fact that they didn’t proves they respect the genre and the material. I look forward to seeing what comes next. It’s off to a strong start.


  1. She literally has fox ears …and a real problem keeping her shirt on and / or buttoned. 
  2. This review is also featured at Indiepitome
  3. The developers have stated this is only the beginning for Tengu-man, but how many chapters there will be in all, or if there’s a concrete release schedule for the rest, was not given. 

REVIEW: The Undead Syndrome 2

And then, like a hopeful ray of light shining down from a bizarre Japanese sun, The Undead Syndrome 2 ($1.00) was released onto the indie channel. Only momentarily blinded by its arrival, my heart stirred at the sight, and I was bathed in memories of foggy environs, KI powers, crystal implants, and giant, vein-covered babies. As the sequel to one of the oddest experiences around (and a personal favorite), this new game had quite a bit to live up to.

Once again channeling parts of all the great, classic survival horror games (notably Silent Hill and Parasite Eve), you’re dropped into the continuing saga of our unknown— and possibly murdered— female lead. After the events of the first game, she wakes up in an alien structure, impaled on a spike. Nearby, others are similarly hung up, including her attacker. She learns the Matrix-like truth that she is being ‘plugged into’ the unending nightmare she’s experiencing, and that whoever or whatever is behind it all is studying them for research purposes. Hmm, guess we’ll be taking the red pill today.

The game’s alien rabbit-hole leads back into the interconnected nightmare, and it’s as strange (and familiar) as ever, morphing from claustrophobic Japanese-style rooms to large, open dreamscapes filled with all sorts of ugly creations bent on stopping you. Using the gifted-to-you ability to shoot energy from your hand (known as KI), you’ll have to cleanse the dream bit by bit, exploring, finding keys and other useful items through some simple platforming, and then revisiting old areas once you’ve gained a new way forward.

That route is mostly trial and error, mind you, as one of my biggest issues with the previous game— the lack of a map or objective markers— leads to some guesswork once again. Helpful floating text in the environment occasionally points you in the right direction or offers a clue to solving some basic puzzles (plus it looks really cool), but it’s largely on you to make a mental diagram of your surroundings and remember which doors were locked the last time you came through. If you’re like me, you’ll get lost a few times before eventually stumbling onto the path the game wants you to take.

Combat feels more amped-up this time around, introducing new enemy types and larger battles, for better and for worse. Given that foes respawn the minute you leave, and backtracking plays a huge role in the game, you’ll be fighting a lot. A lot. Thankfully, the RPG-style leveling and versatile body implants return, rewarding you for fighting those waves of enemies and experimenting with your crystal loadout, trading off KI power or health for greater protection from poison or paralyzing blows. The higher the percentage, the less susceptible you will be to enemy attacks, and really, this perk is worth its weight in the diamonds you’ll equip. Trust me.

The Undead Syndrome 2 - Screen

That’s right, random status ailments rear their ugly head again, and are more annoying than ever. Having to pause mid-fight to bring up the menu and scroll down to the required item is a momentum breaker, and that’s assuming you’re carrying the herbs you need. While enemies drop money (the mysterious spectral salesman and his store are back!) and said healing items, it’s never a guarantee you’ll have what you need in any situation. With the hulking crab-baby bosses (a total of three) guarding the keys you’ll need to progress deeper into your nightmare, you’d be wise to stock up.

Each fight plays the same, with you first attempting to hit their weak points on their arms to expose their head, which takes more damage. This is easier said than done, with the game’s loose combat controls not-suited to precision hits. All this while the bosses give chase, stomping you and inflicting those goddamn status ailments you’ll learn to loathe. Your best bet is to carry plenty of curative items and use the game’s speed run feature to keep a distance buffer between you and them. Otherwise, you may be forced to restart or backtrack to a shop to purchase more. Which is… very not fun.

It’s a shame, as the rest of the game flows well-enough. It ends on a cliffhanger, of course, without any definitive showdown or further exposition. Although abrupt ends tend to infuriate (especially after another 3+ hours of work), that means we can probably expect an additional chapter or two in the series at some point. Which I’m all for. Minus those truly terrible boss fights and the absence of a map, The Undead Syndrome 2 is an intriguing follow-up to an already plenty-intriguing original that fans should enjoy.

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This review is also featured at Indiepitome

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