Review – Devil Engine
The bullet hell shooter genre is one of the most saturated in all of gaming, but I can’t help but love the paradoxical blend of simplicity in gameplay and aneurysm-inducing difficulty that can be seen in pretty much every single title from the category; from Ikaruga to Radiant Silvergun. You can pretty much find a new shooter like this every single week in any of the main online stores, but very few have managed to be as captivating as Devil Engine.
At first glance, Devil Engine doesn’t look like anything special. It looked like I was playing an emulated Sega Saturn shooter from back in the day that never managed to leave Japan. It looks the 32-bit part, it runs on a small window, and it features that typical high-octane soundtrack you’d find in other games from within that same era. Bear in mind, everything looks and sounds great, it just doesn’t impress at first glance due to the monstrous saturation of the genre.
Devil Engine really shines in its gameplay. Its controls are very simple and responsive; you have a shoot button, a bomb button, a booster, and a shield that allows you to absorb enemy shots for what it feels like a millisecond. Everything works as it should, with the exception of the weird button placement when you’re on a menu, as this is one of those games that use the B button as “yes” and A as “no”.
Your ship can collect three different types of weaponry: standard missiles, a stream of blue electricity, and what can best be described as “green homing blobs”. There aren’t lots of power-ups onscreen, and that’s for the best, as it makes things simpler. It also allows the developers to put even more enemies and bullets on each stage, because dear goodness this game is brutal.
Devil Engine doesn’t care about you trying to settle in: it forces you to play in the hardest difficulty right from the get-go. Even its tutorial level can actually impose a challenge. You have no shields or a health bar; one shot and you’re turned into cosmic dust.
You’ll obviously lose all of your lives on your first run and only then you’ll unlock an easier difficulty, adorably called “for cowards”. The game knows you’re probably not going to complete it very often, but that doesn’t mean it won’t reward you from trying. Devil Engine keeps track of the score of all your attempts and keeps giving you little extras every now and then, just like a roguelike. The fast-paced gameplay, the feeling that you can do better on your next attempt, and the huge amount of features you can unlock are more than enough to make you want to replay Devil Engine over and over again, even if you’re probably never going to get past the third level.
Devil Engine doesn’t reinvent the tired wheel that is the bullet hell shooter market. That’s not an issue, it didn’t need to. The developers were aiming to deliver a tough-as-nails shooter that emulated the look and feel of the mid 90’s,and they passed the test with flying colors. This is one of the most entertaining shooters I’ve played in years and one which tested my sanity to its limits due to its insane difficulty. Given the fact I kept coming back to it, that either means the game was actually fun or that I’m a masochist. I’ll leave that up for debate.
It’s played in small resolutions with just a fraction of your actual screen, but it excels at looking like a legit shooter game from the Saturn and PS1 era.
Fast-paced, simple, and responsive as a bullet hell shooter should be, but the button placement when in menus is a bit confusing.
A soundtrack comprised of high-octane tunes that perfectly emulate the feel of the 32-bit era.
Fun Factor: 8.0
A rewarding unlocking system with tons of extras makes up for the occasionally borderline masochistic difficulty. It’s also very replayable.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Devil Engine is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Devil Engine was provided by the publisher.