Review – Super Bullet Break
As a journalist, I strive to maintain professionalism and, most importantly, my integrity. I’m nothing if I alienate the public and lose that trust. That said, full disclosure, but I’ve yet to beat Super Bullet Break to completion. Now, please listen. See, there are a few things here that result in an unpleasant session. It also inspires a new style of coverage that I want to attempt. The format remains identical, but differences will appear within the content. The core reason is a word I overuse and has become my catchphrase of sorts – potential. This game is the Waifu variant of Slay the Spire. The similarities aren’t just glaring; they kick a man squarely in the butt. The million-dollar question is whether the accolades match or falter and fall flat.
Thanks to that roguelike classification, Super Bullet Break is adorned with a scant narrative. Nothing about it should be taken seriously. Like, it follows three girls bummed their favourite game’s servers are knocked out. Amidst their boredom, chaos ensues, and one by one, they’re contacted by a weird NPC. She asks them to eradicate bugs, and upon agreeing, the girls are teleported to a universe of Waifus. The plot itself plays out through tiny exchanges happening at crucial points.
It’s nothing overly extensive, but it gives a good breakdown. What tickles me is the feline character you meet. Sure, PQube and cat puns go hand-in-hand at this point, but as an appreciator, I’m down to clown – refine your expectations and be ready to roll your eyes, maybe. There’s also a surprise that caught me pretty off-guard, but I wholeheartedly welcome it.
Perhaps I’m still buzzing over Digimon Survive, but I legitimately dug the dialogue between friends. It’s predominantly done through text messages, but the wording does a superb job mimicking the dialect patterns of teenage girls. If you look at how I write, the structure often looks less professional and much more human. That’s precisely what we have here. Emoticons, banter, and teasing come together to unleash substance. They all have personality droplets coming out of their pores. It won’t blow you away, but it adds a lot of charisma. I’m impressed with how it showcases the relationship between them. Silliness is familiar with these fan-service-type games, and I, for one, found it short but sweet.
One thing that roguelikes tend to forego is a fully realized area environment. Instead of having you actively traversing the wilderness, you’re moving across randomly generated spaces to the finish line. There’s a modest buffet of stops to choose between, too, like a shop to purchase items, a rest spot to work out some kinks acquired during combat, a mini-game where you’ll be randomly selecting a box for a prize, and, obviously, encounters. For anyone starving for a semblance of challenge, rest assured as a star rating dictates how difficult the enemies within a particular battle are. The thing is, there’s no incentive to follow that complex route, showing a lack of forethought. None of the dropped loot is unique, so I’d routinely follow the most accessible road. When I did, I was brutalizing at a consistent pace until, that is, another blunder waltzes into the frame.
Before I rant further, Super Bullet Break isn’t terrible. It has this addictive loop that grabs me firmly and refuses to let go. What outweighs that, however, is its atrocious RNG. The area themes are based on the video games the girls enjoy. When you enter, the enemies are exclusive to that place. Now, attacking won’t be done traditionally. There aren’t any weapons. Much like its inspiration, this title is heavily reliant on deck building. The cards won’t be selected by the player, however, with a predetermined set given before the stage. It’s as you progress that Waifu allies are recruited in many ways: Battle victories, redeeming scout tickets inside a shop, or a special event. As is customary, random shenanigans are king in this genre. Regrettably, the balance is a deterrent.
Much like the majority of the world, the economy of the in-game universe is struggling to stay afloat. The cash reward after a confrontation is minuscule. The prices far surpass what you earn. Hell, I regularly prioritized buying a ticket because of its importance. That meant I had to ignore potions and items that offer buffs or cause debuffs. Worst of all, rest stops cost 60 coins to activate, but mercifully, it pertains only to 50% health recovery. I could restore 30% for free, and you bet your ass I exploited that. There’s a third option to pick, and it replaces the passive ability of each Waifu. These are pretty beneficial and can better the odds of reaching the finale. A few outright strengthen a whole group of creatures based on their attributes. Again, if I were near death, I’d pick replenishment, neglecting content.
I believe that by either implementing affordability by lowering prices, outright boosting monetary rewards, or perhaps just doing both, some of the cool features of this title wouldn’t be inaccessible because of poor design decisions. Hell, I’d finally be able to embrace the developer’s true vision. I don’t necessarily mind that purchasing character tickets are capped per visit. It adds strategy since I’m now forced to try adapting to the current situation. It encourages me to focus on which Waifu I receive and how to use her to assure triumph effectively. Everything surrounding the shop is actually mint, but when the cost is insurmountable because of slim winnings, it badly cripples the overall experience. As a prime example, the shopkeeper has a fee, but I never even got close to the preposterous tag she demands.
No one can argue the immense ambition poured into Super Bullet Break. There’s ample proof of passion spilling from the seams. Unfortunately, that same ambition hinders the title, making it inaccessible. First and foremost, I want to highlight the positives. For instance, I absolutely love how the combat system replicates a puzzle. See, on the upper left side of the screen, a bar with a number inside of a blue sphere rests. It communicates the attack order of the enemies. Each Waifu is also blessed with a blue spherical shape, and, yes, there’s also a value inside of it. Never fret, though, as some ladies bestow defence, but therein lies my other missteps.
First, every Waifu has a laundry list of traits, and it’s a hell of a task remembering everything. It’s almost like the developers wanted to input all their ideas, which came out resembling word vomit. Granted, there’s one way to check, but because of my goldfish memory, I’d repeatedly do so, causing tedium to snowball quickly. If condensing it down to one or two as opposed to four or five isn’t viable, a filter function could be an alternative.
Secondly, the damage a boss Waifu inflicts is, like the prices, more than I can efficiently defend. Because I can’t outfit myself with a shield-enhancing deck, I’m at the mercy of RNG. Like I said before, I adore the strategy this brings, but not when it’s unfair. It got to the point of pure rage. I genuinely gave up, and here’s why that is.
Finally, picture this: you’re at the last encounter and have whittled her health to dangerous levels. As the turns refresh, her following action queues up – the damage you’re about to suffer is 75. My shields are too weak to withstand the impact, though, making me helpless. As it turns out, the Waifu allies capable of protection are never adequate, anyway. A couple of incoming attacks are just too lethal. Bluntly put, the scales tip heavily in the enemy’s favour – they easily overpower me. Oh, and bosses can strike twice in successive fashion. Sometimes, for more than 75. No matter the attention I put towards my survivability, it was futile.
It goes without saying, the double attacks need to go. They serve no other purpose but to antagonize the player with unfair bollocks. It’s disappointing to see Super Bullet Break switching from a joyous romp to a hair-pulling chore in the span of an hour. These decisions are the biggest factor in that. The defence system makes no sense either. You have shields and armour, with subtle differences between them. While the latter persists through turns, the former won’t. I comprehend the methodology behind this, but due to the restriction, I can’t fortify a wall tough enough to withstand 75 damage – giving credence to lowering it. I know I’m supposed to be analyzing, and yet, I’m play testing. I do it because I want it to succeed. The potential here is edging, and I want to help it explode.
I’ll be frank, don’t prepare yourself to have your ears provocatively touched by docile musings. While I concede there’s a certain whimsy to the music, it won’t leave you in awe. You know, that doesn’t even bother me, though. Roguelites feel explicitly built to shut off your brain and listen to a Podcast, whether about gaming or pro-wrestling. As someone with limited time to dedicate to that, I adore it when I can experience an addictive romp and learn about the latest on PlayStation. There are snippets of voice acting, as well, but it’s nothing that’ll stand out in a crowd. It’s typical as far as quality goes for titles that indulge in dressing up women in skimpy outfits. I’ll be upfront; there’s not much to say regarding the audio, well, other than, without a doubt, that it matches the aesthetic flawlessly.
Super Bullet Break is on the cusp of being a silly, addictive good time. I was having a blast when I had to decide the optimal strategies to advance without taking maximum harm. That excitement flushes down the drain when I’m effortlessly slaughtered with one hit. As I’ve noted, however, there’s a method to salvage it. Switching up the number values, as well as money earned, is a great start. Maybe include slashing the cost to raise an offence or shifting the defending mechanic. By fine-tuning a few aspects, there’s no doubt this could have been another PQube classic in terms of being outrageous but raw fun. Sure, there is no extensive in-depth story of anguish, just cat puns. It can be purrfect, but right now, I recommend buying on sale, after a patch.
I the sprite work is phenomenal. Whoever drew the girls and especially the chibi iterations is talented as hell. The pixel art is great but it’s very simplistic too.
The strategy it forces on a player is exhilarating. It’s fun trying to figure out the best way to approach a battle with the waifu given.
The soundtrack is nothing special, but the voices go well with the setting. For those that like titles such as this one, it feels comfortable and familiar.
I was having fun until I was blinded by frustration. Everything I mentioned, from lowering prices or upping rewards, shield mismanagement, to the damn double attacks, hinder the game. I have no desire to play further because I know I’m going to die in the same spot, without fail.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Super Bullet Break is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Super Bullet Break was provided by the publisher.