Monday, 12 January 2015

Bells and Whistles Review (Arcade)


The land of Meru is under attack from the forces of Iva. A young girl Melora sends out a signal for help and Twinbee answers. Queue one of the most refreshingly colourful and quirky vertically scrolling shooters to have graced the cabinets of arcades in many a year.

Taking control of one of the brightly coloured craft players must pretty much shoot anything that moves if they have a hope of surviving the onslaught of the Iva forces. The title may not bring anything radically different to the table in terms of what a vertically scrolling shooter should be but its charm and presentation make it seem fresh.

Bells and Whistles, for the uninitiated bears a passing resemblance to (among other titles), Xevious in the fact that you must not only shoot the assortment of ships flying towards but also bomb targets on the ground. The fire button acts as both shoot and bomb at the same time with a semi auto-target system picking out targets on the ground. This leaves the player to concentrate that little bit more on avoiding the aerial threat.

Holding down the fire button charges your craft up with a power shot, but that is the extent of any special powers the player has at their disposal. There is a distinct lack of the smart bomb style weapon we have come to almost expect from shooters these days.

Power ups are made available by shooting any of the clouds that float down the screen. Upon being shot the clouds will release a bell. These bells can then be shoot in order to change their colour- each colour representing a different power up ranging from speed ups to differing styles of shot type.

Stages are well presented and come across in the style of an anime comic. To compliment the brightly coloured stages they are populated with a selection of oddball enemies. The screen can become very crowded and the cute graphical style does hide a somewhat steep learning curve. The screen can fill up with bullets very quickly and once you are pinned in a corner it takes near Jedi like skills in order to get out due to your ship normally being just that little bit too big to fit through the gap in the bullets.

Unfortunately the most disappointing aspect of the game is the end of level bosses. Bosses are a touch on the small side and go down all too easily. There is also little indication if they are taking damage or not. All this was sorted out in later instalments of the series but here they are a let down and seem dull and uninspired.

Though the bosses may be disappointing the levels that lead up to them are chaotic enough to make up for it. Enemies come from all sides of the screen as well as rising from the depths of the stage. Though the levels are clearly two-dimensional the way they are drawn does a decent job of portraying the illusion of different layers and depth.

Bells and Whistles certainly has its faults and lacks the sparkle and shine of many of the titles that followed it. However, it is hard to dislike, as there is just something amiable about the game that makes it a constantly enjoyable experience. Ok, so the bosses are somewhat of a let down but that is mainly due to what we now expect form the genre. Later instalments in he series introduced better end of level bosses and a more rounded experience but for newcomers this is a good place to start.

Overall 7/10

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