Bullet hell shooters - also known by fans as "shmups" - are a niche genre due to their often extreme difficulty. Hucast Games and 2Dreams' Ghost Blade HD aims to be a shmup for everyone, and is largely successful at easing new players into the experience.

Ghost Blade HD is a vertical, top-down game in which the player controls a ship that is constantly under attack by a barrage of bullets and missiles. One hit kills the ship, but the bullets come in patterns that can be learned and avoided. You can choose between three different ships (they all feel pretty similar) and gain powerups throughout the five levels, all of which end in a large boss battle that will test your skill.

The game offers a nice challenge, but it's never too hard. One of Ghost Blade HD's most laudable features - notably - is its training mode, which lets you go through the levels and bosses without fear of a game over screen. There are also different difficulty levels, and for those who are new to the genre 'easy' mode makes the proceedings quite fun without ever becoming a cakewalk.

Considering Ghost Blade HD started as a homebrew Dreamcast game, the amount of polish and professionalism on display is impressive. Presentation isn't anything special, but that doesn't make a big difference in the end. There's little story to be found here, though it has a nice anime aesthetic, and all five stages can be completed in about a half-hour.

The point of a shmup is to go for the highest score possible, though, so the length should be just right for score chasers. Visually, the game doesn't slow down or take any quality dips, and the sound design is generic but inoffensive. There's also a co-op mode that lets you play with a friend, which should extend the game's life a bit.

Conclusion

Ghost Blade HD is a good bullet hell shooter. The training mode is a solid addition for newcomers to the genre, but in the end if you don't like this kind of game you won't find much to persuade you otherwise here. For score chasers and fans of hardcore arcade shmups, though, there's a lot to like about Ghost Blade HD.