Dariusburst SP Visually Stuns with Fast-Paced Shooter

Posted: February 12, 2012 in Shooter

Shoot’em ups (shmups) are like cars…you’re always on the lookout for the next best one.  Likely, that’s tied to our primal, competitive natures, but I digress.  If you are looking for the latest and greatest, then look no further than Taito’s Dariusburst SP (Second Prologue), a visual extravaganza whose 3D graphics and rewarding gameplay will have your head spinning.  Easily one of the best looking shmups for the iOS, Dariusburst SP is a fast moving, action-packed experience that only strengthens the platform’s viability in the gaming arena.

Dariusburst SP provides a good deal of content in different modes and includes a number of customizable options to make the experience even more engaging.  The soundtrack is probably one of the better ones you’ll come across and has that decidedly pulse racing feel to it.  A visual stunner, the frame rates are smooth, and you certainly get your money’s worth.

Regardless of whether you’re familiar with the Darius series, Dariusburst SP involves maneuvering and shooting through a crowded field of alien ships, battle cruisers, asteroids and mechanical sea creatures.  The enemies are detailed and come in droves as you would expect in a bullet hell shooter.

There are 4 ships to choose from: Assault, Legend Zero (both unlocked to start), Next Zero and Origin (unlocked as modes are completed).  The burst in the game’s name refers to the powerful laser burst each ship is capable of launching.  With the exception of the Origin ship which doesn’t have a burst capability, each has different attributes in shot and power levels as well as the different type of burst beam.  For example, the Legend Type Zero launches a continuous burst of energy that obliterates everything in its path.  The Assault releases a powerful energy sphere that’s as destructive in its own right.

The game offers 3 modes: SP, Original and Mission.  SP and Original modes are basically arcade modes where the objective is to complete a number of levels culminating in the boss fight.  In these modes, a level system is in place similar to Taito’s Space Invaders Infinity Gene where players can choose specific levels and paths leading up to the boss battle.  Referred to as zones, each of the modes consists of 5 total zones in order to complete the entire mission.  Completing an entire mission in SP and Original modes unlocks Mission mode.  Mission consists of 8 stages each of which are survival modes where a player is limited to one ship and life to complete each of the levels within each stage.

A basic tutorial is included, but for the most part, players will figure out the intricacies as they progress.  In terms of options, players can choose among easy, normal and hard difficulty settings and set up the control layouts for fire, lock and burst buttons.  Screen size and placement can also be tweaked as well.  A continue count option is included that allows anywhere from zero to unlimited continues for levels at the point of destruction in SP and Original modes.

The touch controls in Dariusburst SP work well.  Navigating a ship is done by dragging around the screen, and for what it’s worth, I had no issues with that kind of control set up.  Unfortunately, that’s the only control scheme available.  Having said that, the touch controls allow for a higher degree of precision in movement and navigation.  The various fire, lock and burst buttons are responsive as well, and the fire button can be set to auto fire depending on the player’s preference.

The power ups in the game provide another layer of variety.  As enemies are destroyed, colored orbs appear that can be collected to boost the power of the ship.

Red—boosts shot level

Blue—boosts shield level

Green—boosts bomb level

Gold—destroys all enemies on screen

Silver—awards bonus points

1 Up—awards extra life

The gameplay is where Dariusburst SP sets its mark.  There is plenty of eye candy from the enemies and backgrounds to the environments and explosions.  The enemies can only be described as voluminous and unusual.  The best part is how detailed they are.  For example, one enemy ship resembling a hockey puck opens up to reveal twin cannons.  The boss fights are significant because they take up the majority of the screen, each boss with their own strengths and weaknesses.  The environments are varied and detailed.  One level may take you inside the hull of a ship, while next involves zooming through a crowded asteroid field.

To say that there is a lot going on would be an understatement.  What makes Dariusburst SP even better is the feeling of speed and depth.  Often, what you have with bullet hell shooters is murky graphics and laggy movement.  Not so with Dariusburst SP.  Running on an iPad, I found the graphics ran smoothly with no lag whatsoever.  The 3D animation really shines whether you’re looking at the bony metal plates of the bosses to the high-energy explosions of enemy ships.  Enemies come from all directions and at any given time, a flurry of enemy fire covers the majority of the screen.  Navigating through the environments is an added challenge because crashing into anything will cause damage.

On the Easy setting, the game is straightforwardly chaotic yet manageable.  The boss fights tend to be one-sided in the player’s favor, but still require quick maneuvering.  And, players will want to unlock Mission mode as soon as possible since this is where the game becomes engagingly difficult because of the survival mode set up.  For an added challenge, select the Origin ship and see how far you get without the burst capability.  In general, the AI is well balanced and should appeal to players of all experience levels.

To further add to the replay value, Dariusburst SP has an achievement system through GameCenter that covers everything from clearing levels and collecting items to destroying bosses and causing destruction with certain bursts.

With that said, the levels can feel a little short, but then again, there is a lot packed into those levels.  As mentioned, the game doesn’t provide a d-pad which can be issue for some who prefer that control scheme.  But, these are minor flaws that don’t take away from the overall experience.

Dariusburst SP is a shmup that not only takes advantage of the latest iOS devices, but really sets the bar in terms of providing a 3D high-energy, smooth playing experience.   Graphics aside, the depth and fast-paced action by themselves should attract most if not everyone who enjoys this genre.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (smooth 3D graphics and gameplay provide top-notch experience; pulse racing soundtrack creates the right mood; easy to use touch controls and intuitive upgrade system; feeling of speed with a variety of environments and enemies; GameCenter achievements; no d-pad or tilt control options)


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