“Bug Princess.” Sounds cute, right? Maybe it builds a mental image of a young girl in a frilly dress and a plastic crown holding a pretend-court before dozens of nature’s cuter bugs (they’re out there). Perhaps there is tea.
You’d best strike through that image with a permanent marker. Bug Princess is kind of cute, yes, but in the same manner that a tiger cub is cute: one wrong move, and it’s goodbye to your jugular vein. This is bullet hell. Abandon hope all ye who enter here, etc.
Bug Princess is a vertically-scrolling shoot-‘em-up (alternative, affectionate nickname: “shmup”). Shmups are an old, old breed of arcade game, but they still command a large and very dedicated fanbase.
Purple rain, purple rain.
The core concept behind the shmups of old is still intact in Bug Princess (if it moves and it ain’t you, shoot it), but at the same time, the genre has come a long way since the earliest days of pixels blinking on a black screen. For one thing, Bug Princess has a surprisingly detailed story: a young princess must fight her way through a forest dominated by giant bugs (called “Koju”) in order to find its prince and negotiate a cure for her plague-stricken village. Unfortunately, the Koju aren’t keen on her intrusion, and throw every inch of firepower against the Princess and her craft, a golden rhinoceros beetle.
Like all shmups that dabble in bullet hell, Bug Princess grants you a constant stream of fire (which can be upgraded to include missiles, lasers, and “option beetles” that flank your rhinoceros beetle) and a tiny hitbox. Don’t expect to automatically have the upper hand, though, as enemies will come after you with blossoms of bullets that are as pretty as they are deadly. Reflexes are the key to survival, and thankfully, Bug Princess controls smoothly via iOS touchscreens.
A snake without a plane.
Bug Princess sounds intimidating, and it’s definitely not a game that gives up its victories that easily. However, there are multiple difficulty settings (Novice, Normal, Hard, and Hell) that will let casual shmup fans have a good time as they build themselves up.
No matter which difficulty you choose, you’ll have to keep a close eye on your craft. It’s almost a shame that bullets pollute the battlefield so thickly, because Bug Princess boasts some pretty fine-looking graphics. (Don’t let the blurry screenshots fool you). Bugs of all shapes, sizes, and colors will pop out at you; some of them even fill up multiple screens. All of them are simultaneously beautiful and creepy, but that’s not a surprise. Bug Princess’s point of origin, Japan, is also home to the mukade and the giant Asian hornet. No wussy jumping spiders here.
Bug Princess is a pretty intensive game, but strangely relaxing to play, and definitely addictive enough to come back to over and over. If you’re not put off by its old-fashioned arcade-style options (no saving, no passwords, no safety net, earn your continues), you will have a buggy good time.