Monday 19 November 2012

Bangai-O Review (DS)

The poor old DS has had a bit of a dry spell of late (in terms of quality titles, anyway). While Nintendo have been focussing on improving the Wii's software library, the handheld has been left to fend for itself amid a sea of rubbish licenses and Nintendogs knockoffs.

Sure, Mario & Sonic at the Olympics has eaten up the time of many a DS owner, but the quick fix gameplay and screen scrubbing left the dedicated players out in the cold. So, with a smile and arms outstretched, we welcome back developer Treasure and new title Bangai-O Spirits.

Originally Bangai-O on the N64 and Dreamcast saw you control a kid in a mecha suit (or two to be more specific). The games had you shoot the place up, collect space fruit and try to stay alive. It was pure gaming nirvana, with a mental story and explosions aplenty. Bangai-O Spirits ditches the story entirely, and concentrates on more explosions. Oh joy!

The game now lets you select whichever level you want (from a choice of 160), you just play to gain a high score and figure out the fastest way to complete them. This stripped down gaming works very well indeed. The option to choose levels works too – if something's too hard for you, just move on and return later. The fact that levels have no real difficulty curve means this option may well be utilised early on. Alternatively, you could just use your brain and force yourself to complete the stage before moving on (go on, be a man).

It's like Treasure created a bunch of levels, threw them in a hat, hurled the hat towards a wall covered in pritt stick and used a fat marker pen to write stage numbers on them while blindfolded. The thing is, it works. One easy stage after another can become stale, and sprinkling a slight difficulty spike into the mix spices things up.

Bangai-O has always been about unleashing hot rocket death and head scratching puzzling, and that balance translates nicely to the DS. Sometimes a level requires little more than shooting everything in sight with little retaliation. On other occasions you'll start a stage with a hundred rockets heading straight for you with no warning. Its here you must make use of your arsenal (such as freezing time to unleash a barrage of rockets). The different weaponry on offer makes for plenty of replay value, offering different ways to conquer a stage.

If you're the most hardcore shooter/puzzler/fruit collecting Treasure fan in the world, the levels on offer won't keep you going forever. Fortunately, Treasure has given one of the best gifts in the form of a level editor. This adds a near infinite lifespan, and hopefully a dedicated community through which to share levels will develop (they can be converted to an mp3 format).

So, with a formula barely changed, a pick up and play mindset, and the tools to prolong the experience, Bangai-O Spirits cannot be recommended enough.


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