Bullet Heaven 2 Review-Uh, where did the screen go?

The Bullet Hell genre is a gaming genre that oft goes unnoticed in the gaming community. Sure, it has its dedicated fans that go to insane heights to achieve its near-impossible feats but for the most part, it has a very niche demographic. This isn’t really helped by the fact that they have a high bar of entry due to the punishing nature of bullet-hell games. Somehow, Bullet Heaven manages to do just what it says in the title; acting as a paradise for both newcomers to the series and hardcore veterans. I’m cheating here a little bit as Bullet Heaven 2 is a Flash game and can be played for free on Kongregate so this is kind of like a Flash Friday… on Thursday. However, there is also a Steam version with extra content which is the version I’ll be reviewing today so I can cover every aspect this game offers. Like with Bloons TD 5, I’ll try and give you a simple summary of the differences between the two so you can make your own decision about whether you’d prefer to buy the expanded Steam version or just play the free online version. Let’s take a look at Bullet Heaven 2!

For those who don’t know, I’ll give you a brief overview of the Bullet Hell genre. You dodge bullets and sometimes fire them back. That’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s simple yet somehow appealing. These bullets take matrix to a whole new level however. They often can’t be dodged by a simple dart to the right or left. They are instead fired in crazy, ridiculous, maddening, ludicrous patterns that half make you want to gasp in awe at the beautiful explosion of fireworks they create; and half make you freak out over the fact you’re expected to dodge all of that. Now you are probably starting to see why Bullet Hell games struggle to appeal to a mainstream audience. This hasn’t stopped the genre’s popularity however, especially in Japan.

Anyway, back to the game. One of the best parts about Bullet Heaven 2 is how welcoming it is to beginners of the series. I’m no expert on the genre myself yet I still found myself at home with the intuitive and responsive controls.  Bullet Heaven 2 also has several difficulties from easy to heavenly which you can customise based on your skill level. This is a feature that many Bullet Hell games often lack and I was pleased to see it included. Of course, Heavenly is the way it’s meant to be played as an average difficulty(yes average) Bullet Hell game but it doesn’t make you feel like you have to force yourself to play it. I personally played through the game on normal difficulty first, then replayed it(well, most of it) on Heavenly now I was more suited to the fast-paced gameplay. There’s a surprising amount of content to keep you occupied considering most Bullet Hell games utilise leaderboards to increase the replayability for those who like to be at the top. There are a total of ten different worlds each with five levels, a bonus level and a survival level(for the Steam version) making for a grand total of fifty levels for the online version and seventy levels for the Steam version. You earn a ranking based on your score up to a maximum of three stars meaning there is plenty to do.

I also found myself impressed by the well-thought out patterns of the bullets. Some of them just look damned beautiful and provide a variety of challenges. The bosses especially, have some unique patterns though to be honest, some of them are so pretty, it’s hard to see where one bullet starts and another ends. You get three hits before you’re out and three bombs that deal massive damage and blow all the bullets currently on the screen away from you. There are a number of players, costumes, weapons, cheats and handicaps you can purchase with the coins you earn. The weapons, costumes and players simply offer a different playstyle which spices up the gameplay and keeps things from getting too repetitive, especially when repeating levels. Cheats are sort of upgrades for people who suck at the game and there’s even one for invincibility but this is balanced out by the fact that they reduce your score by a small to large amount depending on the cheat. Handicaps do the opposite, increasing your score but making the game harder. This allows you to customise how teeth-grindingly difficult or laughably easy your experience is meaning it attracts a plethora of people with different skill levels.

One of the distinctive differences between Bullet Heaven 2 and most Bullet Hell games is the writing. Well, I say writing, what I mean to say is the casual banter between the different characters. Truth be told, I’ve been meaning to talk about this game’s creator, Kupogames for a while now; mainly about his Epic Battle Fantasy series which I will cover at a later date. Bullet Heaven 2 is a spinoff of sorts though you don’t really need to know much about the mains series to enjoy it. The characters however, are the same and if you’ve never heard a conversation between Epic Battle Fantasy’s protagonists, you haven’t lived. The main group of Matt, Natalie, Lance and Anna(and NoLegs too I guess) are so full of quirky, queer quips that they’re almost parodies of their character. I can’t really describe it any further but trust me, they had me laughing jovially quite a few times. Finally the music is… just like the title of the main series suggests, epic. Just search up one of the tunes on Youtube. It’s amazing.

Now, it’s time to go over the few differences between the Steam and online version of Bullet Heaven 2. As mentioned earlier, the Steam version has 20 extra levels, 9 being bonus bosses and 11 being survival levels. There are also three new characters with different playstyles: Dry NoLegs, Phyrnna(the person who composes the music for the games) and Slime Bunny. There is widescreen and HD graphics though somehow, the Steam version still has better performance. The soundtrack is included as a free, very welcome bonus and finally, there is Steam cloud saving, 75 Steam achievements and trading cards. Is this enough to justify the £8.99 price tag? For most people, probably not. I was happy to fork it over to support the developer but most people would probably consider it an exorbitant price for what’s probably a few more hours of gameplay. Unless you want to show your support for the developer, I recommend waiting for a sale when you can get it relatively cheap for around £4. Otherwise, there’s always the free, online version.

Overall, Bullet Heaven 2 is a brilliant Bullet Hell beginners game with plenty of content to keep most people occupied for at least a dozen hours; even longer for those who love climbing score boards. While the Steam versions price tag may not be worth it, the free online version has most of the content and is easily accessible on Kongregate. At the very least, I suggest playing the free version for a couple hours and then making your decision now you know what you’re in for. Bullet Heaven 2 does what many Bullet Hell games fail to do, making it appealing to a wider audience while not sacrificing what makes the genre so good in the first place.

Pros:

  • Majority of the game is free
  • Beautiful graphics and patterns
  • Lot’s of customizability
  • Epic music
  • Good humour and writing
  • Pretty good replayability

Cons:

  • Steam version costs more than it’s worth
  • Can sometimes be difficult to see the bullets
  • Some patterns are unfairly hard to read

Verdict: 8/10

Play the game for free here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/kupo707/bullet-heaven-2

Buy the game on Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/412670/

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