Schmups come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing is for sure, I find the genre pretty enjoyable through all the high anxiety moments of bullet hell and frustration. To me, the genre has this tried and true way of using an easy to pick up, but tough to master formula that is unique and fun. Ravegun’s title Blue Rider puts forth this shmup formula and presents it in interesting ways that make it addictive to the point where you’ll want to complete the game through all 9 of its sometimes difficult stages, even though there are some minor improvements that could be made.
Blue Rider puts you right into the action where players can choose any stage they’ve completed and start blasting their way to the boss. The game has multiple difficulties that vary drastically, but I will say that even on Normal mode the game can be excruciatingly difficult, especially during the last two stages. Blue Rider puts the player at an overhead view of the ship and allows for 3D mobility around the map. At first, I will admit that I didn’t like this viewpoint due to my lack of experience with games of this type, but after a while, I ended up understanding how to maneuver my ship properly to avoid getting shot down. Similarly, being a 3D shmup, it’s possible to use cover or flee from battles if things are getting too overbearing. Now, there isn’t really a story in Blue Rider, but I liked to imagine that robots took over the world and began polluting it so I had to take ’em out.
So while you head through the stages, enemies will come up on screen and shoot waves of bullets at you, you know typical shmup. Bullet patterns are what you’d expect, but the later enemies in the game definitely like to get creative as they are equipped with Gatling guns, missiles, and those annoying spread shots. When it comes to being challenging, Blue Rider has a good grasp on how to make the player hesitantly fly into a new area, but the game does reward those who rush into combat with a higher score multiplier, which was reason enough for me go in guns blazing. However, as I said the levels can get extremely difficult towards the end of the game and you’ll be begging for an extra life or health from the very begging of level 7, but for me, this just added to the replayability of the game.
A few things add to the difficulty of the game, but one of them is definitely the lack of options to add lives to the start of your game in the options menu. Players start off with 0 lives, and a life bar, and must get to a certain score in order to get an extra life. Although the hardcore gamer in me liked this approach to “no messing around”, I would have like to maybe practice maps with a stock full of lives and power-ups so I can learn them for when I really make my way through the game. One map, in particular, would be the volcano stage where the ground falls from underneath you into lava and the map branches with tons of enemies surrounding you. Although it’s possible to just jump right back into the stage, you will start with no power upgrades.
The player has two bullet pattern that they can use, a spread shot and a straight shot. Each can be leveled up 15 times with power-ups found on the map. I enjoyed that you are rewarded for exploring the maps with extra points and power-ups because it added something else to do in the game outside of shooting enemies. I do wish that there were other weapons that you can get, but they both work equally as good and I didn’t end up preferring one over the other.
I really enjoyed the level design in Blue Rider. It’s as if the developer aimed for continuity between maps as each stage felt like it blended into the other from the start. There are also some interesting gimmicks such as triggering gates by blowing up the power source or clearing out areas of a map to trigger the boss. I found that I enjoyed each level, minus the volcano level, and didn’t mind replaying them after I inevitably died.
When it comes to enemy types, Blue Rider has enough to offer to where you don’t see too many repeats, but they would pop up from time to time. This wasn’t a problem for a pro like me though who would shoot them down before they entered the screen. In all seriousness, the enemies were difficult and frustrating and I love them for that. They made me think about the best way to approach them in order to take them out without taking damage myself. Furthermore, the bosses were all unique, but the tougher bosses at the end held my interest over the whatever bosses of the begging stages who could be taken out pretty easily. I’d also like to add that I really liked the soundtrack and thought that it set the mode for the levels and boss battles perfectly.
Blue Rider is a decently good 3D shmup. On the Nintendo Switch, the game ran almost flawlessly with only one slowdown that I can remember. This is definitely an easy game to turn on while you’re on the go and complete some levels. However, I would have enjoyed a bit more options and customization to extend my time with the game. With that said, after playing the game through a few times I came out with a satisfying experience and I wouldn’t mind playing more.
Blue Rider is frustrating, fun, and addictive. Although the game lacks content and the difficulty of the last few stages requires multiple playthroughs, it nearly makes up for it with its beautifully themed stages, fun boss battles, and various enemies. I would definitely like to see more from this developer because they are on the right track to creating fun twin-stick shooters.
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