DoDonPachi Blissful Death Review

Now that iOS devices have established themselves as gaming platforms, we can safely label the genres that work well with the touchscreen, as well as those that don’t. For instance, the good souls over at CAVE have successfully demonstrated that the iOS touchscreen and the bullet hell branch of the shoot ‘em up (shmup) genre are a match made in (bullet?) heaven.

CAVE’s shmup drip continues with DoDonPachi Blissful Death, an iOS resurrection of a vertical-scrolling bullet hell title that was initially released in 2002. Like CAVE’s previous releases, Blissful Death is a great port of a solid game that can be downright mesmerizing when bullets blossom across the screen, but the bare-bones gameplay won’t impress everyone.

Hold onto your butts.

Most bullet hell games share a curious trait: despite a general lack of narrative, titles often have complex backstories. DoDonPachi Blissful Death likewise has an interesting setup, which is told courtesy of the option menu’s “History” function (Study! There will be a test later!). Blissful Death is a prequel to Dodonpachi Resurrection, another CAVE-ported bullet hell shmup that’s available on the App Store. Long story short, a machine army has attacked a human colony on the moon, and is planning to do the whole genocide thing. Humanity responds by sending its best: a small fleet of attack ships that are powered by cute cyborg dolls called the Element Dolls.

Element Dolls are strange pilots, but they’re effective. The Doll you choose to fly with at the start of the game determines your ship’s bullet pattern. You must fly from the bottom of the screen up to the top, and blow up the enemy forces that are slinking around on the lunar surface. You control the ship’s direction by simply dragging your finger around the screen, and your massive barrage of (upgradable) lasers and missiles fire automatically.

And in his wake, he left only ruin.

That’s about it. Think it sounds easy? Prepare to die. In the tradition of bullet hell games, Blissful Death will murder you again and again, and it does not care that you have a very limited number of continues that you must scratch and beg for. That said, the game has several difficulty levels spanning from “Novice” to “Hell.” “Novice” is perfectly playable even if you’re not a shmup expert, but there is still a very significant challenge at hand. “Hell” is what it sounds like; it’s the game in its rawest form. Bullets literally fill the screen, and unless you can memorize the patterns and move quickly, your death is assured.

Blissful Death’s selectable difficulty levels are a blessing, as underneath the reams of projectiles, there’s a basic but fun shooter. The lunar landscapes are rendered well, as are the scores of tanks, planes, and robots that are thrown at you, though the enemies and backgrounds feel richer in Bug Princess, another recent shmup release from CAVE. There’s also the matter of repetition. Absolute hardcore fans of the bullet hell genre can appreciate the subtle differences that occur from title to title, but everyone else will quickly notice that Blissful Death plays a lot like CAVE’s previous releases. That is to say, it plays very well, but it’s still a familiar journey.

If you’re foaming for another iOS-based bullet hell fix, or even if you just want to dive into a nostalgic shmup experience and you haven’t yet worn yourself down on CAVE’s ports, DoDonPachi Blissful Death won’t steer you wrong. It’s not terribly original, but it’s arguably better not to fix toys and Dolls if they ain’t broke.

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