I've been a big fan of shoot-em-ups ever since my mother bought me Silpheed for the Sega CD on my 13th birthday. It wasn't my first experience with the genre -- that honor goes to playing Galaga with my father at the local pizza place -- but it was the one that made me fall in love with the intense, twitch gaming thrill that only shoot-em-ups can deliver.
Bug Princess (iOS)
The greatest amount of strategy comes into play with the support beetle attachments that are collected throughout. With a simple tap in the left corner, the proximity of up to four beetles can switched from an "open" to "close" arrangement. Also, depending on how long one waits to collect a beetle attachment, its tendencies will change from a trace type (following your every movement) to a formation type (imagine the Blue Angels in all their glory). I found the formation style the most useful, and depending on the situation, would switch between proximities. The open style is best used for quickly taking out large groups of enemies, while close packs a much more needed and concentrated punch for bosses. Over time, one develops a sweet rhythm from switching back and forth.
For me, Maniac Mode features the perfect balance of bullet-dodging nirvana. In Maniac Mode, the game ups the challenge considerably and also presents a fun scoring system that brings an extra layer of strategy to the game. A shot counter is added; it boosts a player's score for consecutive enemy hits, which really tests one's skill in both bullet dodging and enemy pattern memorization. Ultra mode is doable on the easiest setting, but only the most skilled or masochistic types will find enjoyment in playing Bug Princess' most challenging mode at its hardest difficulty.
Regardless of the mode or difficulty, I'm still amazed at how well Bug Princess controls on a touch screen. I played the game using my iPhone 3GS and it handled the task flawlessly. The fidelity in moving swiftly from one side of the screen to tediously crawling though some of the most hellish bullet patterns later on is a testament to touch design. My only complaint comes from my thumb occasionally obscuring upward enemy spray from view -- something I imagine is less of an issue on an iPad. To compensate for this, CAVE has implemented a few different screen sizes to chose from, with the smallest offering more finger space.
At its default settings, everything in Bug Princess is set to auto when it comes to delivering the action. Auto-fire is enabled, and bombs -- which serve as a screen-clearing last line of defense -- act more like a shield when a bullet connects by, detonating instantly. Strangely, taking these two actions out of a player's hands doesn't at all affect the skill needed to enjoy the genre. CAVE does allow players to enable a more traditional play style. But between dealing with the insane bullet patterns and organizing the tactics of the attachment beetles, there is more than enough going on to satisfy the most hardcore shoot-em-up enthusiast.
THE VERDICT - Bug Princess
Reviewed by Wesley Ruscher