I don’t particularly have an interest in why the four heroes in AngerForce: Reloaded are the opposite of being chirpy. Nor do I really care for the old chestnut of robots being created by a Skynet-esque organization out to wage war on humanity. All I want to do is shoot stuff out of the sky and look cool whilst doing it. This is, after all, another arcade-inspired bullet hell-type shooter out to hit the dock of the Nintendo Switch. With so many bangers of the genre both old and new already out on the platform, could there possibly be room to squeeze in yet another one? Well, of course there blooming well is!
Despite a rather shoddy effort of trying to sew some sort of purpose out of a pointless plotline, AngerForce: Reloaded happens to have the right tools for the job in order to keep those pattern-seeking restless thumbs busy for a while. As you may have already gathered, you have a choice from a roster of four heroes willing to bob, weave and blast their way through seven bullet-guzzling stages. Each hero is equipped with unique perks, strengths, and weakness along with their own personal reason to take on the rebel forces of an evil organization bent out of control.
First up is Shin, a fuzzy little flying squirrel thing wearing the mask of a dragon with mana-type abilities. Next is Echo, the female of the group who holds a vicious bite but her low vitality means that your piloting skills must be more on point. Third in line is Samhill, who is probably the main lead due to his balanced stats and character traits that resemble Attack on Titan’s Eren Jaeger mixed with Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Last but not least, there’s Asimo, a big blue iron giant robot fella who looks far more friendly than he does miffed, but can take a couple more knocks to the chin than the rest of the gang.
However, the moreish quality of AngerForce: Reloaded isn’t really down to the various playstyles that the characters have, but more within its progression system that somewhat reflect that of, say, Dead Cells or, of more relevance, Sky Force Reloaded. The idea is that you only have one life to blast through seven stages to bring peace and prosperity to your chosen pilot. With each playthrough you can earn orbs that work as a form of currency to upgrade both your preferred character and overall stats once your run comes to an explosive end. However, you can also use these same orbs to revive your character at a price, or simply patch them up a bit between levels. The further you get into the campaign the higher the cost to be resurrected. This leaves you to decide whether or not to swallow your pride and upgrade your sky vessel of doom, or take the gamble and go all out for the win.
This kind of system works well considering how short the game really is, limited to the seven stages per playthrough. You can, of course, disregard any prospect of upgrading your skills altogether if you want a more formidable challenge. Unlike the many stages to Sky Force Reloaded – where the requirement to enhance your abilities will certainly affect your progression – earning a victory in AngerForce: Reloaded never really seems far out of reach with each and every playthrough. The satisfaction of saving orbs to strengthen stats does delve into the addictive taste of replayability though, despite the daunting feeling that achievement is earned mainly through assisted progression.
Don’t get me wrong, you still have to become familiar with enemy approach patterns and staying within the cavities of safe zones to survive. But, once I strengthened my gunfire to rip into enemies faster, I soon plowed through the seven stages without too much trouble. This initially left me with a sense of indecisiveness on whether or not beating the game for the first time was a true achievement. Again, reflecting back on Sky Force Reloaded where the grind for upgrades felt more worthwhile thanks to how thoroughly you’re persuaded to master each stage to earn your wings.
The hook is still moreish enough, especially with the gamble where nothing is replenished unless you’re willing to spend the orbs. There are also some solid fundamentals on show here to make for a decent entry into the genre. Small ideas such as using the triggers to either speed up or slow movement down is a nice way of expressing total control of navigation or deciding when is the right moment to use a bomb attack to make such a rationed advantage mean something. The layout of the stages and the music that goes along with them also makes the repetition of each playthrough feel less of a chore than it may possibly sound on paper.
Thankfully, there are still ways and means to up the ante without totally ignoring the core concept of the game. Higher difficulties, choice in character as well as a classic arcade mode donates towards a more expansive challenge. The arcade mode especially has an interesting structure to its presence. You are let loose with a default set of abilities that can be upgraded with the choice of three randomly generated perks between stages. You still only have one life, yet this time you cannot merely rely on orbs to stay in the game as there simply aren’t any to earn. It’s the more reliable source of measurement in progress from what you learn from the main campaign mode. This, in turn, supplies a welcome inclusion to counterbalance the assisted progression system found within the main campaign.
While the art style doesn’t quite tickle the taste buds of my personal preferred flavor, there’s no denying that AngerForce: Reloaded is a pretty game that uses clever tricks. The 2D visuals have a sense of three dimensions by utilizing what developer Screambox Studio call a free-form deformation technique. It’s a smart way of tricking the brain into seeing a 3D perspective on characters and certain objects to imply that they have depth – especially when it comes to introducing the end of level boss fights.
Unfortunately, there does seem to be a fair bit slowdown present when the screen gets very busy with rewards, enemies, and explosions. This could almost be mistaken as a stylistic choice at times. But when the slight chug in gameplay in later levels begins to have an effect on your movement, it’s clear that there is a technical crease present. The game does support a Tate mode, which is now becoming a necessity for arcade shooters. Considering the game’s field of view matches the narrow displays of ’90s Japanese arcade shooters, rotating the Nintendo Switch screen vertically is the most authentic way to play. That is, of course, if you possess either a screen stand or one of those cool flip-grip things that seem impossible to get hold of in the UK.
On the whole, I really did enjoy my time with AngerForce: Reloaded and I feel that it’s a great entry point for those who have a curiosity in the genre. Whipping out a stronger set of skills gained from the last run in the campaign provides a satisfying sense of power, making you feel forever outnumbered but never outgunned. Whereas the true one-shot attempt to the arcade mode fits nicely for more challenge hungry enthusiasts. Even if your usual weapon of choice is more on the brutal lines of Ikaruga or Danmaku Unlimited 3, AngerForce: Reloaded is still pleasantly polished enough to provide comfort to satisfy that itchy trigger finger.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by indienova