.Decluster Zero: Bullet Nocturne ($2.99) by MASAYUKI ITO is a challenging bullet hell shoot ’em up (shmup) with flashy graphics. If you enjoyed games like Operation Dracula and Shooting Stars, then you’re going to love what .Decluster Zero (dot decluster zero) has in store.
Ah, the good old bullet hell game — these are the types of games I tend to go for when I’m visiting the local arcade (the few that remain, anyway). I grew up with the classics like Galaga, and when I was in high school I was big in the anime and Japanese culture scene, which led me to the crazy difficult Japanese bullet hell games like ESPGALUDA II. So naturally, I am fond of these over-the-top arcade shooters, which means I’m always looking out for something new to play on the App Store. This week, I’m glad to get my hands on .Decluster Zero: Bullet Nocturne.
The visuals in .Decluster Zero are beautiful, especially if you are into the neo-retro style. When I said that this game is flashy, I wasn’t kidding — it consists of bright and vivid colors for the backdrops, enemy ships, laser bullets, explosions, and pretty much everything else. While the game is made up of rather large pixels, I found the textures to be great and everything is fairly detailed. Animations are as smooth as butter, so you won’t have any choppiness as you play (this was tested on an iPhone 6).
Just like other Japanese shmups I’ve played, .Decluster Zero has an awesome EDM soundtrack that will surely get your adrenaline pumping. In fact, if you played the first .Decluster: Into the Bullet Hell game, you will recognize most of the songs. That is because .Decluster Zero is essentially a remix of the original, with improved graphics, music, and redesigned levels. But that’s not all, as the game mechanics have also been modified from Into the Bullet Hell.
There is one game mode in .Decluster Zero, and that’s the classic Arcade mode. From here, though, you will have four difficulty levels to choose from as well as five different stages to go through. While it may not sound like a lot at first, the difficulty levels make a big difference in terms of how hard the game is, and the waves of enemies just get tougher as you progress. The boss battles are a real test of your shmup skills.
Controls in the game are pretty straightforward, but there is a full-on guide in the app to help you master them. To move your ship around, just drag your finger on the screen — the ship fires automatically. If you need to change the movement sensitivity, there’s a setting for that in the options menu. A double tap will switch the ship’s basic weapon from a linear laser to wide-shot. If the meter on the left side is full (up to three charges), you can use a Homing Laser by tapping the screen with a second finger. This homing laser will target the nearest enemy, and all bullets around the player are cancelled out and turn into items instead. If you continue tapping during the homing laser, you enter Capture Mode, which will slowdown any bullets that are within the circle. Over time, the bullets in the capture field can change into stars when the homing laser is fired. You can also enter Charge Mode by lifting all fingers from the screen to stop firing, but charge the meter faster.
Items can be found throughout the stages, and they’re important since they affect your score. There are two types of items: score chips and star items. The score chips will increase your score and raise the meter, while star items give points according to the Star Multiplier. Here, 10 star pieces will equal one Star, so make sure to get them all when you can for the best possible score.
If you are worried about what happens after you meet your inevitable end, don’t worry — the game lets you restart from whichever level you last reached. And for those who are worried that this is just the same game as the first one, the developers have made sure that it isn’t, as they have modified and even added bullet patterns and changed the placement of enemies.
Like all shooter arcade games, the main objective is to get the highest score. .Decluster Zero also has full Game Center integration for several leaderboard rankings as well as 34 achievements to obtain, so the replay value is high. If you want to share your epic plays with others, there is support for replays through Everyplay.
I’m a big fan of bullet hell shmups, so .Decluster Zero is a top pick for me this week. I had the first game but just didn’t get around to playing it, but there is no reason for that now. Bullet Nocturne is gorgeous, the music is awesome, it has simple and intuitive controls, and the gameplay is challenging yet addictive. If you are a fan of top-down arcade shooters, then I highly recommend giving this one a try.
.Decluster Zero: Bullet Nocturne is a universal app available on the App Store for $2.99 for a limited time (40 percent off). There is also a free, Lite version on the App Store that you should try first to make sure your device can handle the game.