|February 25, 2015
|Platformer; Bullet Hell, Shoot ’em Up
From time to time, we get an opportunity to try something different. We get to try an idea no one has attempted and see if it meshes well or if the execution is not quite up to par. Leikir Studio decided to create a game that combined gameplay seen in platformers with a bullet hell shoot ’em up. On paper, the concept was interesting and full of potential. Naturally, Isbarah is going to be a challenge considering the genre of the game. Does the concept of the game work well?
Isbarah takes place in an alternate universe within humanity’s imagination. God and his daughter, Iria, watch over the universe to ensure the Designless do not leave their dimension. The game looks gorgeous with its variety of bright lavish colors. The art style is as detailed as a graphic novel and is presented in a comic strip format. The goal is to defeat bosses across chapters. Each boss level begins with a platforming segment or has players activate three ray guns and power them up by staying within an enclosed area to aim and shoot at the boss. Once all three rays guns have been activated and fired, the player must build up energy in an enclosed circle while dodging oncoming bullets and attacks by each boss. Along the way, Iria will gain new skills such as the ability to slow down time, dash, and create platforms to jump on for a safe landing and to block projectiles and bullets. Mastering these abilities and memorizing patterns will be the difference between successfully dodging oncoming bullets or taking a hit.
The game’s sound and music is primarily composed of hard-rocking tunes. The music raises both the tension of the boss fights and keeps the player focused. The only downside is the music gets to be repetitive at times, as the same music is used for the cutscenes and for the boss levels. The controls will feel awkward at first, but, eventually, they will begin to feel comfortable with more practice. The only control option is the keyboard and mouse. When I first played Isbarah, I was puzzled to Leikir Studio’s decision to disable controllers. Once I could create platforms, I realized the only efficient control scheme is the keyboard and mouse. Without it, precise moves would be impossible to pull off. The default setting is to have the left hand press the A,S,D, Shift and Space Bar keys to perform jumps and maneuvers with the right hand controlling the mouse. If the key controls are uncomfortable, players can customize them to any keys they want to use.
Isbarah is going to be frustrating and it is going to break you at times. The difficulty is so high, the developers inserted advice in the loading screens to take a break after 50 minutes of gameplay. There are going to be many bullets and projectiles flying at Iria. Bullet Hell shooters work because the player can move around the entire screen. Unfortunately, Isbarah requires players to dodge projectiles and bullets in a small enclosed area. In the later stages, the window of opportunity to avoid being hit becomes smaller. Without fast reflexes, the game is going to make sure Iria takes damage. To make matters worse, players only get one continue per boss stage, and the bosses have to be taken down two to three times on the lowest difficulty and three to four on the higher difficulties. In total, Iria can only be hit six times per boss.
Isbarah can only be recommended for anyone who is looking for a hardcore challenge to test their skills. The game has an amazing concept, and I want Leikir Studio to have the opportunity to make a sequel, so they have a chance to fine-tune the mechanics and improve it. The concept has potential to be a successful formula if the issues plaguing Isbarah can be fixed in a second installment.
Review copy supplied by the publisher, and is based on 10 hours of gameplay