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by Paul Byron on Thursday 7th Jul 2011

Heaven in Bullet Hell

My eyes feel like they’ve just witnessed the biggest fireworks display ever.  They’re watering and twitching.  Such is the result of Deathsmiles, the latest game by CAVE.

CAVE is, of course, well known for the sort of games listed under the phrase ‘Bullet Hell’.  Dodonpachi Resurrection, Espgaluda II and Mushihimesama Bug Panic have previously been the guilty culprits in this genre, taking shooting to a new level.  Now Deathsmiles, last seen on the 360, has been launched on to the App Store.


New to iOS is the iPhone Mode, which contains a whole new story and items to collect in order to power up your character.  The story centres around Princess Tiara, who comes across as a little stuck up, possibly because she hasn’t got any magical powers like her four Angel friends.  All that changes when a familiar finds her and allows her to release the power inside.


In reality, what this means is that you play as a different character and occasionally get little nuggets of story.  The power-ups are, however, an interesting twist to the game.  They come in the form of costumes and umbrellas.  New dresses, shoes and other items will give you better firepower, defence and attack capabilities, which you’ll need to make it through the hail of fire without dying.

Arcade mode is the traditional game where you follow four Angels lost in another world and raised by an elderly man.  Choosing one of the four girls, the general idea is to pretty much shoot everything that moves.  Some strategy comes from choosing between bullets, which have a larger spread or a laser, which is stronger but slower and using lock-on and magic abilities. 


In both games the lock-on will allow you to lock on to just one enemy. This is essential when tackling the larger end of level monsters.  Getting close enough to lock on can be an issue though and often results in launching a Magic attack at the same time.  If you have enough Magic power, built up over time by gathering items from fallen enemies, then any time you are hit by an enemy or significantly damaged by a bullet there will be a huge burst of magic power which will obliterate pretty much anything on the screen.  You can, however, mix the risk of damage to yourself with the reward of inflicting a lot of damage on bosses.  Early bosses can be completely removed from just one blast of magic, so it’s worth the risk at the end of a level.

As with other CAVE games, the aim is to survive so that you can increase your score. The score counter goes up with every item you grab from killing an enemy.  Getting killed means the score counter is reset to zero.  Getting through the game using multiple continues is no real feat, likewise going through on easy (level 1) should take you no time at all.  Move up a level and you’ll have a hard time staying alive.   Game Center support through the use of Openfeint ensures that scores can be measured against friends and on a worldwide leaderboard.  It also gives you the opportunity to aim for Achievements, some of which are score based.



While there are always many objects on screen at once the game hardly ever slows down.  On the iPhone 3GS there are some more noticeable moments when the game seems to be having a hard time coping, but on a fourth generation device Deathsmiles copes fantastically with the huge waves of enemies and, in particular, the beautifully detailed boss characters who often fill whole areas of the screen while you skirt around their projectile weapons.

Die hard CAVE fans will have no doubt already picked the game up as soon as they saw it arrive on the App Store.  For anyone else interested in horizontal shooters with huge boss characters and cute, anime style Angels, Deathsmiles is Bullet Hell from heaven.

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  • Sound: 8
  • Graphics: 9
  • Gameplay: 8
  • Longevity: 7



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