Mamorukun Curse! Review
While the shmup/bullet hell genre has taken off on iOS devices, we still only see blips on the radar when it comes to full fledged genre favorites on consoles. Sine Mora (available on every gaming device out there, it seems) was a revelation, but things have been quiet since it hit the scene. Now we have Mamorukun Curse!, an unabashedly Japanese take on the bullet hell genre (a genre they created, in fact). Fans of these games will probably find this game equal parts good and bad, but those looking for a quick fix will be the ones most enthralled by this PSN release.
Mamorukun Curse! is a vertical shmup, where players take controls of one of a bevvy of anime-style witches with slightly different attacks. The action scrolls forward and enemies swarm, completely filling the screen with multicolored projectiles, hence the "bullet hell" genre name. As genre fans know, the story isn't important when it comes to these games, so I'll spare you the drawn-out explanation of what's going on here; basically, these cutesy anime witches are stuck in the underworld and have to fight their way through thousands of brightly colored beasties. The tale moves things along well enough, but thankfully, the dialogue that bookends every level can be easily skipped with a simple button press.
Genre fans also know that these games often live and die by their challenge and their "hook." We can talk challenge first. Mamorukun Curse! falls on the easier side of the shmup world, but it can still provide a decent challenge (at times). What is weird is that the levels themselves are oftentimes leaps and bounds more difficult than the screen-filling bosses the bullet hell game is known for. Only the final few bosses posed a serious threat, which is something of a letdown. The levels themselves, on the other hand, got brutally difficult rather quickly, though they never became too much to handle.
Part of the reason the challenge structure is backwards is the game's "hook." In Mamorukun Curse! players have access to a multiuse "curse" function. It works a bit like a mix between a temporary shield and a nuclear explosion. Holding the button down brings up a field that turns enemy fire into bonuses and destroys weaker foes, but hitting it quickly creates a small area in which the player gets stronger fire, shields, etc. Balancing when to use what function is by far the strongest mechanic the game brings to the table, though the ability to nullify shots is part of what makes the boss battles easier than expected.
And speaking of weird, players of old school games like R-Type, Lifeforce and the like know all about slowdown. Older shooters slowed to a crawl when too many bullets and enemies filled the screen, but it just isn't something you see too often with today's more powerful consoles and handhelds. Mamorukun Curse! has, strangely, lots of this old school slowdown. Even as early as the first level, I saw the game begin to drag when one too many skulls were firing one too many projectiles. I'm all for nostalgia, but there are things about gaming's past that are better left forgotten. Slowdown is one of them, and seeing it here, in 2013, wasn't a totally welcome event.
So should you buy Mamorukun Curse!? As a fun afternoon for a casual shooter fan, by all means, go for it. But those looking for an epic challenge in the vein of Ikaruga, or a complete update of a once great genre, like Sine Mora, might come away a little disappointed. No matter what your final call is, I think we can all agree it is nice to see a new bullet hell shooter out there that isn't an App Store exclusive.
Final Rating: 65%. Well, it's no Sine Mora...