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Bullet heaven.

There's something oddly poetic about the fact that, on the same day that Microsoft cast its arms wide to embrace a new audience of casual players and non-gamers, its console witnessed the release of one of the most ferociously challenging games it's ever likely to host.

Cave's 1999 arcade shooter Guwange has been buffed up very slightly for its Xbox Live Arcade debut, with three distinct game modes and an array of options – but it's still the same dizzyingly difficult bullet hell blast it was eleven years ago. Put it this way: it's not likely to get a Kinect control patch any time soon.

As with Cave's other maniac shooters, the screen is filled with a curtain of bullets 95 per cent of the time, and it's up to you to find the gaps. Absolute precision is required to navigate through these increasingly complex patterns – and that's before you take the topography of the play area into consideration. Unlike DoDonPachi, you're not flying above the environment but walking across it, and so you've got to negotiate the bridges, hills and winding pathways of feudal Japan as you try to concentrate on the never-ending swarm of projectiles headed your way.

There are offline and online co-op modes, if you fancy sharing the load - though the addition of another player gives you even less room to manoeuvre.

In theory, this adds an extra layer of depth, but sometimes it just feels like an inconvenience: as in life, you've got enough to worry about without having to think about where you're standing (which might explain me having to scrape the world's biggest dog turd off my shoe on the day I got my last tax bill). It's a bit like getting stuck on scenery in an FPS; when you're running backwards to safety, you don't always have time to check whether you've got a tiny fence or rock blocking your retreat.

Once you're past that particular obstacle, you've got another decision to make, and that's how you're going to destroy the soldiers, tanks and assorted mutants who want you dead. There's a rapid-fire mode which allows you to move around freely, and a limited number of bombs (which aren't really bombs in the strictest sense of the word) that temporarily offer a significant boost to your bullet damage.

But the ace in the pack is the shikigami, an invulnerable spirit guide who you can move into position with the control stick when you hold the fire button down. Naturally, this restricts your own movement, but the shikigami can collect power-ups and slow down enemy fire, turning their blue bullets a rather fetching shade of pink.

Not only does this allow you to dodge more effectively, but any projectiles remaining on-screen when your foe explodes transform into a shower of coins (as if the screen wasn't quite busy enough). You also earn coins from destroying enemies in quick succession, and it's when you start successfully chaining coin drops that your score will start to increase more rapidly.

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Chris Schilling avatar

Chris Schilling


Chris Schilling writes about video games for a living, and knows an awful lot about Pokémon. Ask him anything. (Though he may have to confer with his son.)