The shoot 'em up genre hasn't exactly seen a lot of love on the DSiWare service to date, but EnjoyUp! Games is looking to change that with the release of 99Bullets. While the basic core of the game does revolve around an old-school shooter premise, there's a unique twist that injects a very puzzle-like atmosphere into the mix.
The basic premise of 99Bullets revolves heavily around the classic shooters of days gone by. You take control of your robot and must fly through space taking out enemies that come your way, all the while being able to shoot in four different directions to make things easier. While this might, at first, sound rather typical, you'll soon find that there's quite a bit more than just putting your thumb on the fire button and mowing down everything in sight.
For starters you are given a 99 bullet limit at the beginning of each stage. And not only does this mean you only have 99 shots to take as many enemies out as possible, it also means that you'll have to avoid being touched by any enemies and hazards as well, as taking a hit also removes a bullet from your arsenal. You'll soon find that the game becomes a constant strategy session of balancing your shots and avoiding dangers, all while attempting to reach the objective points score needed to complete each of the levels. You'll find this balancing act particularly challenging on some of the game's intense boss fights.
There are basically two modes in the game to choose from. Arcade Mode pits you in a progressive battle through the game's levels one right after the other and is easily the meat of the package. You can also choose to go back and play through individual stages that you've already completed to try to better your scores or just get a little practice in for your next Arcade run. To make the game even more accessible, you'll also have three levels of difficulty to choose from, each offering different levels of intensity and challenge.
While the controls are fairly standard and should be quite familiar to any shooter fans, the ablity to shoot in four directions, coupled with the 99 shot limit, does add a nice twist to the overall package. The controls themselves are well impemented and very responsive, although the split-screen setup can be a bit difficult to navigate, especially when enemies or your robot start moving between the two screens. It's a minor annoyance, but one that will take some getting used to, especially once you reach some of the more challenging levels the game has to offer.
The visual presentation is basic for the most part, but the sheer variety between the levels does help make up for it. Sometimes things tend to stick to vector-like designs, whereas other times things get a bit more flashy, sometimes even psychedelic in nature. You'll find that there are some absolutely wild-looking enemies and bosses swirling your way throughout the game, so what the game lacks in visual quantity it makes up for in originality.
Much like the visuals, the game's audio offering doesn't try to blow you away, but it does offer up some interesting musical tracks and a nice dose of nostalgic synthesised speech that old-school arcade fans will appreciate. You'll even be tossed a few interesting sound effects to help round out the shooter presentation.
The combination of two genres doesn't always equal success in the world of video games, but the unique mix of shooter and puzzler elements in 99Bullets at least creates an experience that makes it stand out from the crowd. While there will inevitably be shmup fans who miss the "blast everything in sight" mentality that's normally associated with the genre, gamers who are willing to open their minds and try something new might just find the game to be quite a breath of fresh air.