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Danmaku Unlimited 2 (PC) artwork

Danmaku Unlimited 2 (PC) review

"Danmaku Unlimited 2 keeps dialling up its challenge, asking you to find increasingly smaller envelopes of order inside an orgy of chaos. "

There always seems to be a bit of confusion floating around the sub-genre of bullet hell and what it actually is. I know; donít scoff, weíre all aware, but itís a question poised to me with enough regularity to become a little annoying. The description most agreed on is that if you can finish the game without any projectiles hitting your craft, itís not bullet hell. Hell shooters, you see, instead employ a small hit box on your ship (or loligoth witch or WWII era plane possessed by a vengeful samurai, orÖ) which allows sections of your sprite to be hit without taking damage. You just need to fit that small glowing box through that tiny gap in the massive wave of incoming bullets thatís just filled the screen. I like to classify them slightly differently; if you find yourself in a situation where there are so many projectiles you think it absolutely impossible to survive, and then do so anyway to great relief and satisfaction, then youíre in bullet hell, my son.

Danmaku Unlimited 2 is bullet hell.

Thereís some element of symmetrical beauty in how Danmaku 2 goes about trying to kill you. In order to stand out, enemy projectiles are often bright neon pink, and flood the screen in lazy tufts of sharp diamonds or flocks of giant orbs. You only need one of these to brush against your clearly defined hit box to set off your ADS (Active Defence System) which clears the screen of bullets and gives you a chance to re-establish yourself. But the system is usually limited to only one such burst and, once itís gone, collision equals destruction. There are a few clever little tricks like this that helps establish Danmaku with its own sense of identity.

Like an almost RPG-esque level up system which rewards you with points the further into the game you play to invest into perks. You can devote these into extra ADS bursts, spare lives and/or continues, or bulk up your weapon with hardier focus beams or enemy-seeking pulses. You can redeem and respend these points before you start any game, meaning if you purchase a build youíre not happy with, you can always scrub it clean and start anew. Thereís a sense of flexibility to take into either of the two game modes each with four tiers of difficulty and the chance to enforce your own style of play. Youíre welcome to take advantage of this. Youíre all going to die, anyway.

Its mobile device roots and budget price range does little to dilute Danmaku 2ís sadistic onslaught. Stage One is a relatively laid back affair when the majority of the initial flurry contains enemy ships literally surging into your artillery. They explode into a showering of collectables that differ with each mode played. Both Burst and Classic let you enter Trance Mode once your bar is filled, turning you invulnerable, dialling up your weapons to insane proportions, and adding an angelic haze to your surroundings, but the former also includes a Hyper Beam that decimates everything it touches throughout its very brief lifespan. Soon, unarmed kamikaze make way for larger ships spitting out three-pronged spreads of angry crimson bullets or huge cruisers that take up a third of the screen and are littered with active turrets. In a unique twist, these bigger targets are flanked with a numeric tag that indicates how much more damage they can sustain before the number simply changes to DOWN.

Then the easily-felled mid-boss returns. Its numeric counter has been replaced by a health bar, and it goes through several stages of trying to destroy you with vibrant and pretty bullets that drift around the screen in circular formations while Indie electro-rock sequels high pitching guitar riffs at you mercilessly as you weave through laser and plasma. Knowing you should be dead, but dead set on getting past the next wave.

Danmaku Unlimited 2 keeps dialling up its challenge, asking you to find increasingly smaller envelopes of order inside an orgy of chaos. One stage fills the screen with a line of laser, broken only with indestructible Hexagons of Doomô mowing through their ranks, tasking you to dart through the gaps they create before the next block falls. Multi-turreted weapons platforms spit out unending steams of offense which is a nightmare on its own to dodge, but are also protected by a literally infinite supply of numerous smaller craft that orbit it endlessly, effectively stealing a large portion of the screen. Then another sneaks in. Then another. Eventually, your screen is a small corridor of questionable safety even before the dozens of bullets hit. When the dozen of bullets that surge towards you do hit, in only a few seconds time, youíre either very smug, or very dead.

Iím at the point where, even with my pimped out ship, Iím struggling to one credit Danmaku Unlimited 2, but I feel myself inching closer each attack pattern I avoid. Every demise Iíve faced feels avoidable and every weaving run though a claustrophobic labyrinth of death brings me one step closer. Thereís a hidden final boss out there that Iíve yet to find, but I will.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 03, 2014)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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