If the name of developer Cave rings a bell to you, odds are that you’re interested in shoot ’em games. Devoting themselves almost exclusively to the genre, it has become a household name for fans. Without a new Gradius or R-Type on the horizon, fans of horizontal shooters can enjoy a re-release of Deathsmiles, which just came out on Steam.
Originally developed for arcades and released back in 2007, Deathsmiles previously came out for Xbox 360 and iOS/Android systems. It’s been around the block, and the current PC port hasn’t been upgraded for 2016 standards. Is it still worth picking up then? Well, yes, especially if you’re a shooter fan who never had a chance to play it before (and no self-respecting shooter fan would play a shooter on a tablet).
In Deathsmiles, you choose a character and are then accompanied by a creature/ghoul on your adventure. Where most horizontal shooters use spaceships, Deathsmiles has your character flying without the need for one. It creates a look that is less sci-fi and much more ‘gothic fantasy’. Enemies vary from mechanical tanks to giant cows and creatures that seem inspired by mythology. In between all that, a barrage of bullets is almost constantly on screen, and you’ll find yourself weaving through patterns on them as enemies can attack you from either side of the screen.
The characters you can choose from are diverse, not just different skins for the same basic model. Because of this, you can employ different play styles, giving you a bit of extra replayability in the process. You can also play cooperatively with a friend, making things even more hectic but generally a little easier as well. Shoot ’em up staples like a super weapon/bomb are here as well, but enemy attack/bullet patterns and how you weave through them are very much the central element of Deathsmiles.
As mentioned before, this is a game that originally came out for Xbox owners in 2009 and it wasn’t updated since then. The core mechanics are still great and a lot of fun, but there’s no support for high resolution gaming and there are no additional game modes. Essentially, this is the Xbox 360 version re-packaged for PCs. Since then we’ve seen better animations, more detailed environments and more content in other games – but that doesn’t change the fact that Deathsmiles is somewhat of a classic for fans of the genre. If you never picked up the game before then this is a great chance to do so, but it’s getting a “retro” flavor to it for people who are familiar with the original releases.