Cave are well known for providing amazing conversions of their Japanese shoot-em-ups on the App Store, from Espgaluda II to the completely off-the-wall Deathsmiles. Their latest game, Bug Princess, doesn't stray too far from the other games in Cave's collection but it still manages to provide something a little different.
IOS gamers have met characters from the Bug Princess universe before, of course, in the interestingly different Mushihimesama Bug Panic but while this was more of an off-shoot from the arcade games, Bug Princess is a proper port. In fact, this is probably their more accurate port to date, with no extra modes or options bar the touch screen controls.
The story, if you really need to know such things, involves a young princess called Reco, who has been chosen to be sacrificed to the Koju, the giant insects that live in the forest. Her villagers are reluctant to let her go, but after a plague hits their village they have no choice. Telling her to go and speak to the king of the Koju, she is sent on her way on a giant Rhinoceros Beetle. So begins Reco's adventure and explains why all the insects are adamant to turn her into mincemeat.
In terms of gameplay, what this actually means is shooting a whole lot of giant creepy crawlies without gaining too much damage yourself, in typical shoot-em-up style. As with other Cave games the screen is completely filled with enemies of all shapes and sizes and just avoiding all the purple enemy fire is a job in itself. Defeated enemies release gems which can be picked up and added to the score at the end of each level. Dying means that the score counter and gem count get reset, so high score chasers may want to avoid being killed.
Extended weapons in the form of option items will occasionally be dropped, allowing option beetles to attach to your character. These add extra fire-power which comes in handy when swamped with enemies. While newcomers to Cave games will find plenty new here, veterans to this type of game are well catered for with a bunch of options unique to Bug Princess.
One nice addition is the score counter. When enemies are killed this adds a multiplier to the score, which then goes back down for enemies that are missed. Chaining together kills becomes the main way to top the scoreboards and earn a massive amount of points. But the game is more subtle than this. While many vertical scrolling shooters will give you a huge score for unlocking more powerful weapons, the way that the score is calculated and the addition of the multiplier means that sometimes it's just as beneficial to use a standard weapon and aim for every enemy, big and small, to gain more bonus points.
However, as with any game from Cave, those new to the genre will need to know that there's a pretty high difficulty level in these titles. Even with the four different difficulty levels on offer, Novice level requires some dexterity to avoid being shot to hell. They don't call these games Bullet Hell for nothing!
Visually, Bug Princess is up to Cave's usual high standards. The enemies range in form from tiny to huge screen filling bosses, sometimes crawling under the current floor and glimpsed at before reaching them. The level of detail with everything going on at once is stunning and there's no noticeable slow down, even with a million different things happening on the screen. The music will be joy to the ears for fans of Japanese game soundtracks, it harks back to an earlier era of high powered gaming music that doesn't rely on modern soundtracks to make its mark.
The only slow down appears on the loading screen which, for some reason, seems to take an age to get between the game and the menu. It seems to be due to new achievements being added or new items unlocked in the tutorial but, for whatever reason, it can be annoying when waiting to get back into the game.
Bug Princess is another top class shoot-em-up from Cave that doesn't disappoint. It might not have quite the same depth in scoring as some of the later coin-ops and there are no extra modes to speak of, but it certainly hits the Bullet Hell spot.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 8
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