[Review] Gundemonium Collection (PC)
Available on: PC, PS3; Publisher: Rockin’ Android; Developer: Platine Dispositif; Players: 1 – 2; Released: September 27, 2011 (Steam); ESRB: Everyone; Official Site
The three games, Hitogata Happa, GundeadliGne, and Gundemonium Recollection, each offer several levels of bulletstorms. The main appeal of each game seems to be that the player controls girls dressed in fancy outfits and a comically large shooting weapon. Initially I wasn’t sure whether to expect a female-oriented narrative in which a female is empowered by the use of gun-based implements or a game where I shoot girls. Both options are terrible and shallow theses, and thankfully what I played instead was more sensible: Japanese anime maids (ani-maids) shooting laser bunnies, demon pumpkins, and half-naked cat swordswomen.
There is irony here, but it is mostly me confusing the visual design thesis for the gameplay thesis. The gameplay thesis of each game is to be a shooter, in which the player controls a little shooting person while the game controls many other bigger shooting persons that try to shoot you. Additionally, the game is very hard. Very very hard. It is hard because the amount of bullets being shot at the player ranges from many to way too many. There is an artistic culture of bullets being explored in this game, in which an intricate design is expressed for the dual purpose of mystifying the player in the streams of swirling bullets, and also to shoot the player.
Hitogata Happa has a different shooting format than the other two: it is a top down, upscrolling shooter. The player’s shooting weapon is called a “doll,” and there are a selection of twelve to choose from, each with their own special abilities that a player can use to survive. The player may switch between dolls in gameplay by being exploded by a bullet or exploding their current doll against an enemy, which is a valid and necessary tactic that I had to research on the internet to find out about. Besides being able to explode by contacting an enemy (not a bullet, which will simply destroy the doll), each doll has a unique “mana ability,” ranging between devastating attacks to temporal torpor, which can be activated at the expense of mana. Additionally, at the end of each level, the player must spend their accrued gem grist, which falls out of bad guys the player explodes, to stock their every yawning shelf cavity with dolls.
The scoring system measures things which I can’t really think about while I am playing the game, such as “friction” (how close my sprite gets to bullets without dying). Also, there are tactics involving capturing bullets in a “zone of control” to elicit maximum pointage, which tends to be a mysterious tactic but necessary to destroy the level boss before he destroys you. It indicates that this is a game that demands a high level of skill to have a high score, which makes it an impressively nuanced and challenging game when it is not frustrating and overwhelming.
GundeadliGne and Gundemonium Recollection are each very similar to each other in that they share character designs and game formats. They are both side scrolling shooters featuring anime maids with huge guns shooting incontiguously sensible enemies, such as witches with pistols and cat ladies on insect-mechas. There are only two characters to choose from, but each one provides a drastically different sort of gameplay. While both characters play through the same levels, the biggest and most important difference lies in the complexity of strategy needed to play each character: one character has a limited mini-gun that the player must keep from overheating paired with a time-slowing “mana ability” (similar to Hitogata Happa), and the other character is variably dressed and has a wideshot gun with an occasional screen-clearing mega-attack (the method to activate it tends to be beyond the player’s control, however).
Like Hitogata Happa, the scoring system measures some mystifying things that went straight over my head, making me feel as though I am very bad at playing this game (which I am). After watching a few YouTube videos though, I realized that the feeling of inadequacy is a shared sentiment among those who play this game.
In all of the games there is a replay feature that the player can use to watch themselves flounder across the levels of the game. I can’t imagine who besides the incredibly talented bullet-dodgers would bother with such a feature, but sometimes I imagine that an audience would enjoy watching my increasingly baleful efforts become frustrated with unrelenting difficulty in the same way that an audience would enjoy watching me try to ride a skateboard repeatedly while I sing the national anthem. In fact, I think that might be an easier task than completing these games.
These three games have both a very niche motif, in that I feel that they appeal to very particular people. There is a degree of inaccessibility which I feel is not unwarranted. It is like this: there are games that accept people who enjoy shooters perhaps as a way to pass the time, or maybe enjoy the concept of a shooter. They are accessible and can be enjoyed by any plebeian in the street. For some, these accessible, people-friendly games are not enough; they demand more from their shooters, and so a game is designed to exclude all the cotton-soft hands of the casual spaces, to excite and titillate the senses with rigorous and exciting shooting exercises with ways to measure skill which a more casual form of shooter would not even consider. This is what this game is: an exclusive space for people who want their incredible skill validated.
Unfortunately, because this game was designed to exclude the likes of me, I may not be entirely qualified to rate and measure the game in terms of quality and design. However, I did enjoy floundering through the bizzare bullet-themed shooting narratives, if not for the immense challenge, mostly for the novelty of such a unique game.
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.