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Friday, 19 August 2016 20:15

Flat Shot: A Highly Distilled SHMUP Experience With a Razor Focus on Visual Communication

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There are certain genres that are plagued with endless derivative variations on a theme –- I can’t remember the last time I saw a “roguelike” title that felt or looked new. A lot of times, this phenomenon is driven by solid core gameplay elements that make a genre what it is, without strong defining story or stylistic traits. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bullet hell or twin stick shooter that doesn’t innovate significantly, but there’s really no point in purchasing more than a few titles with these genres in common when the only differentiating factors are art style, and occasionally execution. In the past I’ve found myself wanting a game that takes one of these gameplay focused genres, strips away any pretense of flavor or uniqueness, and leans in hard on the mechanical elements to provide a fun experience. That’s exactly what I got from a little indie bullet hell called Flat Shot.

The visual language of Flat Shot is akin to applying a material design theme to raw Touhou Project frame data. Pastels, simple white polygons, and cel-shaded lighting communicate exactly what is happening very effectively, which, as bullet hell fans can attest, is incredibly important for this type of game. Each level add something new that escalates by the later stages into a satisfyingly parabolic difficulty curve. By the fifth stage after the tutorials any doubts I had about how Flat Shot was put together were firmly rebutted. Controls are fast, but tight, and the charged shot and bullet deflection give you enough variety in play-style to offer different approaches to each stage, while retaining the simplicity that this game aims to convey.

My experience with Flat Shot has given me a lot to think about. I’ve written before about how Roguelikes, Shmups, Twin Sticks, and the like felt hollow if they didn’t stray far enough from core gameplay, but this game takes the opposite approach and is a joy to play. Would I be singing a different tune if someone did the same with these other indie mainstays? Probably not. Still, Flat Shot and other titles like it may fill a niche that no one knew existed, becoming the exceptions that prove the rule.

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