Watch out, Ash Williams — you’re not the only one in town with a boomstick anymore! The devils that populate TeamDB’s utterly bizarre App Store debut might have way more in common with candy canes than your average Deadite, but that doesn’t mean iOS gamers won’t have tons of fun blowing them away in ShootingDemon (Out Now, $0.99)! From what I can tell through the thick haze of what must have been a Google-powered translation, the player guides the demon-hunting exploits of an angel-in-training named Formil as she rids the world of little devils that are polluting the earth with too much cuteness. It’s nothing short of a tragedy that the translation and the sickeningly sweet presentation are liable to alienate the hardcore shoot ’em up fans who absolutely owe it to themselves to check this one out!
Giving the player an over-the-shoulder perspective as he or she guides Formil’s trigger finger with touchscreen taps, ShootingDemon achieves an ultra-fast paced and deliciously hectic arcade experience. A few minutes in and it’s apparent how utterly at home a game like this feels on iOS. A simple touch-friendly interface (make that multitouch-friendly if Formil’s equipped with dual pistols!) provides no-nonsense targeting; perfectly responsive swipe input takes care of reloading on the fly. While the first few levels are accessible enough to casual players, make no mistake: the action gets so frantic that enemies will soon escape all but the seasoned shooter veteran’s thumb in the very time it takes to reach for the touchscreen.
Clocking in at 28 levels and three to four hours’ worth of gameplay, ShootingDemon keeps the experience fresh through varied mission objectives and a light equipment management system. As Formil wanders from area to area she’ll access guns with different power, rate-of-fire and ammunition properties, which the player can upgrade by shooting down coins that are just as difficult to collect as they are rewarding. The player can also upgrade her short range swords, which become accessible in battle once she’s filled up an attack meter through successful targeting. Melee weaponry becomes just as integral a gameplay element as Formil’s guns, required for damaging bosses and striking down bullet-proof obstacles that shield incoming enemies.
Lest all the thunderbolt-spewing weaponry make taking down enemies too easy, the floating Care Bear Formil takes orders from flies in inexplicably from time to time. Hit the boss by firing indiscriminately and it’s “bye bye bonus,” as they say. While scores are tracked on the player’s record in ShootingDemon‘s story mode, this comes into play more seriously in its OpenFeint and Game Center-integrated time attack and endless modes. The player will want to tackle these for extra replay value after finishing the story mode, because equipment options are carried from the former to the latter.
Equipment management being the bread and butter of RPGs and many Castle Defense games, it’s easy to see where a great story could up the ante on a game like this. Choppy translation means that simply wasn’t in the cards for ShootingDemon; shoot ’em up fans probably wouldn’t sweat it if not for how the translation obscures mission objectives, and this is what knocks the game down from the heights of perfection. Players will be dumbfounded at how quickly certain missions end in failure, Formil’s boss hardly helping with his vague commands. Most of the time this means the player is supposed to be taking down specific demons before they’re able to race across the screen. Identifying which ones are the culprits boils down to trial-and-error, and a keen eye on Formil’s “Life” meter — in truth it’s simply a measure of how many mistakes the player’s made in satisfying her current assignment.
While the heroine’s own hand-drawn sprite frames and trademark wink are charming in a relatively neutral way, shooter fans who cut their teeth on DOOM‘s snarling cacodemons might run for the hills at the first whiff of cutscene stills that channel far more Powerpuff Girls than the truly demonic. Be that as it may, there’s no denying how entertainingly flashy the onscreen action gets a few levels in. It’s unfortunate that ShootingDemon falls far short of hitting the ball out of the park in audio, relying mostly on short and tinny jingles.
iFanzine Verdict: If we saw as many games of this style on iOS as we do infinite runners, we wouldn’t need a heaven. We’d already be there. Despite the language barrier TeamDB has pulled off something that’s truly worthwhile, with an-easy-to-pick up, difficult-to-master quality that will either appeal to longtime shooter fans or make genre fans out of casual gamers who take a chance on it. Here’s to hoping TeamDB jumps into the English iOS market again sometime — preferably with the translation treatment their design prowess deserves.