"Just got in the zone with DoDonPachi Resurrection and scored 120 million. I'm gonna one-credit this bitch."
That really doesn't sound anything like me. That's not something I'd usually tweet. I'm not competitive, I don't care about scores and I've never wanted to "one-credit" any bitches. I haven't dreamed of finishing Resident Evil 4 with just the knife or five-starring Freebird while submerged in a vat of custard.
But, to be fair, I was still in the depraved state of figuring out how to win big in DoDonPachi. I could still hear the zany electro-J-pop echoing around my brain box and I was seeing faint pink and blue dots when I shut my eyes. I'd worked out the trick to get the biggest scores, and the most massive multipliers, and had survived for five zones without clunking in another virtual coin. It felt good. It felt worthy of a tweet.
And that's just how the most exquisitely designed bullet-hell shooters make you feel. Scoring high is not just about submissively dodging, weaving and banking through the enemy's fog of electric death-dots. And it isn't about offensive pixel genocide, either. It's about carefully balancing the two, gaming the score system and making the frantic blur of overwhelming neon work for you.
Take the iPhone Mode, a style of play designed exclusively for your Apple gadget. It has this so-called S/M gauge, a tiny meter that teeters between the extremes of pure survival and outright aggression. Narrowly avoiding enemy bullets increases your Menace rating which propels your multiplier all the way to an obscene x1000. On the other hand, destroying enemies with deadly efficiency rocks the meter to Slaughter, where downed foes ooze loads more loot.
They need to be worked in unison: grabbing glittery gold loot is only effective when your multiplier is in the triple digits, but your chain will subsequently sink if you're not perilously scraping past enemy fire. You have to work the game like a pendulum, moving between defence and offence like a champion boxer. It certainly takes far more concentration than either meekly dancing around bullets, or assertively firing them into the enemy's ships, turrets and schoolgirl-shaped juggernauts.
You also have to swap weapons on the fly, switching to the laser beam to counter the enemy's own concentrated radiation blasters. This is mostly to stop you getting complacent and lazy, and to encourage you to keep your headphones on to listen for the tell-tale sound of a laser charging up.
It's not all intensive score-keeping, weapon-swapping and zig-zagging between strategies, though. You're offered a brief respite with the aptly named hyper cannon, an unavoidable tidal wave of destruction that you get to fire after filling your hyper gauge (another meter, yes). To charge it up, you spin your finger around in circles on your iPhone like a nutter. It's the most ludicrous gesture you'll ever subject your sexy rectangle to, and really shouldn't be found in a serious, hardcore, bullet-hell shooter.