You Like Old School Shmups? Good!
When you think of shoot’em-ups ( shmups for short), what games do you think of? Gradius? Xevious? 1942? All classic shmups have stood the test of time. While it’s great seeing these games getting re-releases on modern hardware and their arcade cabinets still getting used, there hasn’t been much in the vein of classic shmups in a long time. Enter publisher Tendokore and their new game, GyroBlade, which aims to bring back that classic shmup and arcade feeling.
GyroBlade is about as classic a shmup as you can get. You play as a helicopter going through enemy lines with one goal and one goal only; shoot everything that moves because it’ll be shooting at you. It’s up to you to hone your skills as you dodge enemy projectiles and rack up points to get a high score. You have four difficulty modes to pick from: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Classic, and every time you start a new game, you get three credits to try and make it as far as you can through the game’s eight stages. The visuals are classic 8-bit style and quite gorgeous, which goes quite well with the catchy soundtrack. The animation for explosions is fluid, and I’m happy to say that the thumbstick controls are smooth and do a great job emulating a joystick. Had this game been made in the 80s, it would’ve fit in perfectly next to a Galaga cabinet.
So where does this game falter? It plays exactly as advertised; a shmup that harkens back to older games. What you see is what you get, and while GyroBlade does this one thing well, more modern fans may find the game severely lacking in content. There is only 1 mode to play and that’s it. There aren’t any extras, different modes, or methods for getting extra credits when you start a run. The options menu lets you change the in-game volume, and that’s it. Granted, the version of the game I was playing is Ver. 1.3.0, so maybe in the future there will be more additions, but it seems unlikely. This is a small indie game after all, and the developers knew what kind of game they were making. Like with any arcade shmup, the longer you play, the harder the levels get, but I did notice something that made me die a few more times than expected. While I love the 8-bit art style, the enemy projectiles would sometimes blend in with the environment. While the projectiles are bright red, when you’re flying over dirt and dodging 20 things on screen, the bullets start to blend. This could result in you dropping a life when you think you’re on top of everything. Difficulty does start to ramp up around Stage 3, but by Stage 4, I found myself constantly dying even on Normal difficulty. Thankfully, GyroBlade allows you to unleash on enemies with auto-fire, meaning you won’t have to constantly tap the A button to shoot. Instead, you can just hold the fire button and focus your attention on dodging enemies.
As far as power-ups go, there are some to snag, but they are limited. Certain ships give power-ups out when destroyed and they do improve your range of fire. Green power-ups add another gun to your helicopter (so instead of 2 rows of bullets you get 3) and Orange power-ups spread the shot out so you can damage more enemies. However, once you get 2 of these power-ups, you can no longer upgrade. While the ship that gives you said power-ups appears around 3-4 times per stage, you can’t keep getting more bullets. All you can do is switch between more concentrated fire or a more spread-out shot. It should also be noted that these power-up drops aren’t random, and instead switch to a different color after a few seconds pass.
I have to applaud the developers for sticking to their guns, as they knew exactly the kind of game they wanted GyroBlade to be. Quite frankly, with those restrictions in mind, they did an amazing job. That being said, this game was also made for a certain type of niche audience; those retro gamers who love classic shmups. While those gamers may look upon GyroBlade and see a true return to shmup form that offers a new challenge, others may find a game they play a few rounds of and then call it a day. With that in mind, it’s worth pointing out that the game isn’t that expensive, sitting at just $5. This is quite a deal, especially for a game that shows this much love for the genre.
If you love (and I mean LOVE) classic shmups, then GyroBlade is a must-play. If you like or dabble with classic shmups, I’d still say to give this game a shot. Just know going in that what you see is what you get.
When all is said and done, GyroBlade is a fun time that may keep you coming back time and time again in order to push that high score just a little bit higher.