Games

TWiG 2008-04-07: Rediscovering Bullet Hell

New releases for the week of 2008-04-07...

This week's release list looks a lot like last week's release list. That is, it's pretty sparse. There are, once again, no huge games coming out this week, and a solid half of the week's releases are on the PC (and half of those are re-releases of things that most fans will have been playing for months already anyway), games that are still readily available elsewhere. Portal, as a matter of fact, could be the best three hours you ever get for 20 bucks, but it's a game whose time has come and gone, one of the defining games of 2007, a year when our faith in the FPS was challenged and renewed.

As it turns out, my pick of game to watch for the week is a re-release as well, though this one's been awfully tough to find for quite some time; that's right, this is the week that the long-promised Ikaruga will be re-released in HD form for the Xbox Live Arcade.

Words can barely express how excited I am about this.

Ikaruga, for those who see little more than a seven-letter, four-syllable Japanese word (which, incidentally, means "spotted dove") in the name, is a variation on the "bullet-hell" style of space shoot-'em-up that has come to prominence in the last few years. While it retains the property of throwing massive amounts of tiny little bullets at you, this version of the game gives you a defense: Each bullet (and each enemy) has a "light" or a "dark" polarity. Your ship can switch between the two. If you are the same polarity as the bullet that hits you, you'll absorb it, building energy that you'll be able to use for a special attack. The downside is that enemies of the same polarity will take more shots to destroy. Conversely, switching to the opposite polarity of your enemies allows you to kill them quicker, but also leaves you open to death.

Master developers Treasure (who I'll hold a candle for 'til my dying day thanks to Gunstar Heroes) take this mechanic and run with it, often forcing the player to switch on a whim from one polarity to another just to stay alive. This gameplay style makes the game slightly easier than the traditional bullet-hell shooter, but "slightly easier" translates to "reasonable" when you're talking about this much stuff on the screen at once. Add in a bonus-producing combo system and some of the most intimidating bosses out there, and you've got a classic. If you have never played the GameCube or the (Japanese import) Dreamcast version of Ikaruga, a slow release week like this one is the perfect time to give it a go. At a mere 800 Microsoft points ($10), there really is no excuse to stay away from it, unless shmups cause you to break out in hives.

Honorable mention this week goes to Baroque, whose distinct art style and vaguely gothic storyline will show up on the Wii and PS2 this week thanks to those geniuses at Atlus. Those of you waiting for a dungeon crawler for the Wii, well, your time has finally come.

As always, the full list of this week's releases is after the jump...

Nintendo DS:

Fab 5 Soccer (08 April)

Plushees (08 April)

PSP:

World Championship Cards (08 April)

PS2:

Arcana Heart (08 April)

Baroque (08 April)

Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2 (08 April)

Wii:

Baroque (08 April)

MiniCopter: Adventure Flight (08 April)

Summer Sports: Paradise Island (11 April)

Xbox 360:

Ikaruga (09 April)

PC:

Nancy Drew: Double Dare 5 (07 April)

Overclocked: A History of Violence (07 April)

Assassin's Creed (08 April)

Civil War Mysteries (08 April)

Half-Life 2: Episode Pack (08 April)

Portal (08 April)

Team Fortress 2 (08 April)

Escape from Paradise City (10 April)

Sam & Max Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub? (10 April on GameTap, 11 April for download)

PS3:

Nuh-uh.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image