Day 179: Vorpal

Posted: 2011/05/07 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #179, and today’s game is “Vorpal”.

When playing Sega’s classic “Columns” I would often end up “in the zone” as the game hit speeds where I could barely comprehend it and was acting on pure instinct. Vorpal has the ability to introduce moments like that, though less due to the speed and more due to the at-times hypnotic black, white, and red graphics paired with techno music. Like with day 177’s game, “Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess”, and the classic PS2 game Shadow of the Colossus, Vorpal boils down to a series of dramatic boss fights, but takes a very different take on the idea than the other two.

First, from the developer (Abraham Morales):

“Single Player 2D Bullet Hell Shooter. Try to destroy your opponent’s ship by firing a barrage of bullets and depleting its various shields. Dodge your enemy’s insane attacks while using various Power Ups to improve your odds.”

One thing that Abraham Morales has done, that I haven’t seen from other XBLIG developers, is produce a press pack for the game. Among other things, it includes the story background for the game. Rather than rephrase it, I’ll just quote it here for those interested in it. Everyone else, feel free to just skip past it.

“Time will never change humanity’s most primal instincts. War and the pursuit of power are simply human nature. Mankind will forever search for ways to destroy itself. In a distant future, when humanity’s constant survival has long depended on fusing their bodies with machines, Earth is ruled by an autocratic Government known as the Edar Federation; violence is as common as daily bread. The Federation stole an artifact known as the Libram of Arcana from a renowned scientist; it has instructions on how to build a weapon, code-named Vorpal Blade. With the weapon, the Federation would suppress its enemies and the population with power beyond measure. When the Federation’s plans were leaked, the Libram disappeared, its creator, Dr. Wright, murdered. The search begins, who has the Libram of Arcana?”

An immediate difference I noticed versus other “bullet hell” shoot-’em-ups is that there’s approximately a 0.0% chance that the enemy shots you have to avoid will get obscured by the scenery, thanks to the austere backgrounds. That’s not to say the game is unattractive though, as enemy ships and character art are extremely detailed, with a Japanese manga look to characters and a tribal tattoo look to ships. The manga-esque feel is further enhanced by the largely black and white nature of the game, punctured only by appropriately blood red shots attempting to kill the player (enemy shots alternate between blood red and greyscale).

Like most “bullet hell” shmups the emphasis is more strongly on the avoid-’em-up side of the gameplay than the shoot-’em-up side, with careful and constant positioning and repositioning required. At times the (often slow) precise positioning makes it feel more like a ballet set to techno music than a run-and-gun adventure. The white backgrounds do not give the sense of a constantly scrolling background, but they do foster a feeling of an arena grudge match to the death as you fight through each boss’ 9 phases (each new phase unleashing a new pattern of bullets to dodge).

The game has a unique feature where every hit you absorb fills a “Stress” meter that, when full, unleashes something equivalent to a smart bomb and clears the screen of bullets, but also reduces your final score. But make no mistake, take too many hits and you can and will die.

It’s worth noting that this is definitely a “colourblind” friendly game, for those who have trouble distinguishing certain colours from each other. The developer has published a Vorpal walkthrough on Youtube for those stuck at a certain point in the game, which is a nice touch. At 80 Microsoft Points, an unmissable purchase for shoot-’em-up fans.

Click here to download “Vorpal”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.



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Comments
  1. Thank you for taking the time to do this fantastic review. I’m glad you liked Vorpal! ^__^

  2. I really like Vorpal, though I find it colossally difficult. So far I haven’t been able to get through the third stage of the first enemy!

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