The Original Bullet Candy was an arena shooter from Charlie’s Games. Perfect is the “enhanced version,” with tweaked levels and updated sound and graphics. I haven’t played the perfectless version of Bullet Candy, so I can’t weigh in on the updates, but the game looks polished and performs without any hiccups.
The term bullet-hell comes to mind. The game starts off easy enough. It’s just you and a couple slow, weaponless enemies trapped in a square of two-dimensional space. But the easy targets only last for the first few waves. While your enemies never get much faster, they start shooting lots of yellow bullets pretty quickly. If you don’t clear a wave in under a minute, it’s probably because you’re so worried about avoiding projectiles that you can’t take your eye off the ship long enough to target anything. Eventually you run out of lives and have to start over. But the next time you get a little farther, and not just because you’ve gotten accustomed to the controls.
Yes, your ability to avoid projectiles and gun down the enemy is the most important part of any shooter, and that’s no less true of Bullet Candy Perfect. But a little bit of strategy and a little bit of knowledge goes pretty far here. There are a few moments at the beginning of each wave when the screen is empty of everything but the enemy ships and you. Taking out the right ships in those few moments can be the difference between a screen full of yellow and an easy stroll to the next wave. So you have to pay attention to which ships are the most dangerous and take them out early.
Power ups are key to the later stages, but they come in few forms. The first is a laser upgrade. Each wave is littered with collectibles. If you collect all of them, you get a score bonus and everything on the screen dies, which is useful but hard to pull off. But if you get half of them, your lasers become more powerful, doing more damage and even passing through weaker enemies. The other power ups come from stars. Enemies drop four colored stars: Red, Green, Purple and Yellow. Yellow is just a score bonus, and a red star gives you an extra life. The purple star gives you the three-way shot, and the green star gives you the three-way shot, upgrades your lasers and makes you invincible for the rest of the wave.
Lasers and invincibility reset every wave, but you keep the three-way shot until you die. If you have the three-way shot and you’re stuck in a corner with nowhere to go, you do have one option. You can kill yourself. Suicide takes up two lives but preserves your powerups, giving you a second chance to clear the wave. Obviously that’s a last resort, but sometimes it’s worth two lives to keep the extra firepower.
You can play with either a joypad or a keyboard and mouse, whichever you’re more comfortable with. I chose my 360 controller, which probably wasn’t the best choice. I think the keyboard would have provided tighter control, but the 360 controller had its own benefits. The right analog stick makes the ship fire in any direction, while the buttons left, right, up and down, which was something I often turned to when I had to pay close attention to my ship’s movements.
Bullet Candy Perfect is bright neon colors on a darker, spacey background. The art is pretty well executed, with ships in aesthetically pleasing geometric shapes and interesting, intricate bullet patterns.
But the color choice is compromised in one area; the color and shape of most bullets is very close to that of the Saturn-shaped collectibles, making distracted collection a risky endeavor. But other than that, everything ran smooth and looked pretty.
The soundtrack is an appropriate mix of blippy and glitchy. It’s a bit repetitive and forgettable, but not too distracting. The sound effects are spot on though. Each type of enemy fire has its own static type of blip-blip-blip, while your gun emits a low hum, which stands out without being loud.
An online score board does increase Bullet Candy Perfect’s replayability, but the biggest thing that gives Bullet Candy Perfect lasting appeal, at least for me, is it’s cross-platform availability. This game wouldn’t stay in my rotation if it were only on the PC, but since it’s one of the few (but growing, thanks largely to indie developers) games that runs on my iBook, I’ll probably keep it on there for when I’m out of the house. It may even take the place of Jets’n'Guns, which has been my go-to shooter on the laptop for the past year or two.[review pros="Cross-Platform Compatibility, Great bullet hell gameplay" cons="It's a hardcore shooter that's not for everyone" score=93]