Shooters used to be simple but then got incredibly complicated over time. Just flying up the screen and blasting everything was a nice start, but then sub-weapons with unique scoring systems came into play, bonus mechanics based around multiple types of pickup were introduced, and the interactions and effects of each chain, combo and powerup got progressively more intricate. Once the player got into the system everything made sense, but looking at it from the outside wasn’t just chaos, it was confusing chaos. Blue Revolver strips down the vertical shooter to a few systems that interact in easily accessible ways, striking a great balance between newbie-accessibility and having the scoring potential for pros.
The shooting action of Blue Revolver is both properly manic and accessible. There are two characters to choose from who play in fairly similar ways, with multiple variables to choose from at the start of each new round. The main weapon comes in three varieties- straight shot fired ahead, wide shot angles off to the sides, and a third with controllable options that varies depending on character. Pick one of the three styles of shooting and then select a special weapon from among four different types, and try to clear the entire game on a single credit. It sounds like a lot but, after a game or three, you’ll easily settle on a favorite loadout and concentrate first on survival and then on milking the levels for every point they’re worth.
The combo system is simple and flexible, and it ties in with the secondary weapon. Each kill adds to the Hit count, which has a bar underneath that decreases unless you keep on shooting things. The counter only goes up to eight and each stage from four on up increases the bonus multiplier from enemies killed with the secondary weapon. The low end is a mere 8x multiplier but a full 8-hit combo earns a nice 64x scoring bonus for any enemy killed with the power shot. You can’t just spam the ability, though, because it’s fueled by a gauge that’s topped off by one of the two pickups in the game. Each little glowing… whatever-it-is refills a small sliver of the gauge, but there are more than enough in the levels to guarantee you’ve always got a shot or two available. It’s just enough so that you’ll need to think about using the shot rather than simply spamming it, but once you get a sense of the level it’s not hard to chart a nice point-rinsing path through the enemies.
Staying alive is another matter, though, because Blue Revolver is a classic bullet hell shooter. Every level is packed with enemies that are quite fond of making the screen crowded with firepower, and on the standard Hyper mode difficulty scales depending on how well you do. Normal mode is kinder, being the equivalent of Easy, but then you wouldn’t get your recommended daily allowance of bullets. It’s your standard vertical arcade shooter setup, nicely paced and with plenty of set-pieces per level, making it easy to keep track of the enemy patterns and figure out the best time to break out the big guns. Bosses are big and mean, smaller enemies swarm out in large numbers, and mid-range threats are common enough to make sure you never get too comfortable.
If things get too hectic, though, Blue Revolver has several other modes to get you up to speed. Stage Select lets you experiment with any level on any difficulty, character, and weapon loadout. Missions mode has remixed stages with a set goal to achieve, such as suicide bullets, enhanced difficulty, or single-life survival, and a bonus goal such as not dying or reaching a set score if you want to make life extra-difficult and earn the A+ rank. Both modes are designed to teach a new player how to get through a frenzied bullet hell shooter while giving a more experienced player a nice selection of extra challenges. Rounding out the menu are Unlocks and Extras, with the latter having bonus art and other goodies and the former being the place you spend the coins earned during play on extra music, ship colors, and the incredibly expensive Free Play mode. That last option is the game’s only truly annoying part, because while 1CC-ing all five levels is an admirable goal it’s also incredibly challenging. Buying a credit or two for less, instead of unlimited quarter-feeding for the coin take of a few dozen games, might have been a bit less of an epic quest.
Blue Revolver is a shooter that meets its audience more than halfway. Its systems are designed to be accessible but not overly simple, giving experienced players plenty of room to experiment with while still being rewarding to those who have been maybe a little intimidated by the more advanced features of the more popular games in the genre. That doesn’t mean its easy, of course, because you’ll need to be on your A game at all times to avoid eating a bullet or seeing your scoring potential take a hit from a badly-timed use of the secondary weapon. Its enemy patterns and bullets are well thought out and nicely paced to keep you on your toes but not constantly overwhelmed and each level has plenty of distinct encounters that prevent repetition from setting in. Blue Revolver is a rock-solid arcade shooter that hits all the high points of the genre without getting bogged down in its excesses and easily earns its place in any genre fan’s library.