“Love erupted beautifully from her heart.”
-Narrator, The Void Rains Upon Her Heart
“The following is a guest post by the Final Fourteenth Mage.”
The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is a new bullet hell indie game from Veyeral Games – an indie game developer by the name of Angel Polanco. The game is currently in its alpha phase and is in early access on Steam. The premise of the game is that you play as a young girl from an alien species known as the Zaraden. She is alone, lives in a cave and fears because she is somewhat deformed for her race, unlovable. Instead, she decides she can love, and she seeks to spread more love around by befriending monsters with her heart shaped bullets.
The game itself follows the basic principles of bullet hell – kill enemies while chaos erupts on screen. The menu screen you start from gives you a selection of cards, which I then discovered formed the basis for the next level. The game doesn’t teach you much, but I soon figured the cards relate to the monster for the level, and potential challenges to unlock as you progress through the game. Then, once selected the fun begins.
Levels themselves are single boss fights, where you take on the monster you previously selected. The monsters all have unique fighting styles – the Glacia for example is a giant flower with an eyeball in the middle of it, which fires giant orbs which split off into much smaller beams to cause damage. There are other creatures such as the Burning Veyeral – a black orb-like creature that chases you around the screen and splits off into smaller versions of itself, and the Scrambla, a monster which also chases you around the screen whilst its side monster fire beams and other nasties at you. The designs are okay – I would have liked to see more variety in the colours used but it is clear that thematically the game favours dark colours such as purples and dark pinks and they reflect that.
The game has a basic HUD which shows your health, how many special attacks you have remaining, the number of motes collected in the battle (a form of scoring system) and the health of the boss in a progress bar at the bottom of the screen. As someone with no particular talent in games of this type, I thought it was a nice touch to be able to see how far off I was in killing the boss as the levels got progressively harder. Your character auto-fires in a straight direction initially with low damage per second, but you can hold down a button for a charged attack and as you progress in game, you collect modifiers such as base damage power ups, or attacks that split into two giving you a better range. None of this is revolutionary for the genre of course, but all executed well.
You need to play multiple times to unlock further power ups, which at least increase the longevity of the game – which is necessary as it is rather short and difficult. The game doesn’t really have a lives system per se, you have one health bar to run the entire playthrough from, with the potential to heal if the random card generator at the end of the battle gives you one. On my first few goes, I found this really tedious, as I would lose all my unlocks and have to start again over and over, and it really soured my opinion of the game initially, especially as it is so repetitive. As I started to learn the mechanics better though, I realised the game tracks how well you have done previously through the motes, so the more you play the easier it becomes to unlock better items earlier and earlier.
Graphically the game is not the best I’ve seen for the genre, but I feel that was probably the designers’ intention. It reminds me of late-stage Sega Mega Drive – even down to the simplicity of the soundtrack being 8 bit inspired. As someone who appreciates retro, it is nice to see gameplay favoured over graphical superiority, and some of the simple touches are really nice – hearts swelling into your character as you charge an attack, and the eruption of hearts when an attack lands are quite cute. This game is focused all around love as a concept and you can tell early on that it is a labour of love for the creator. Although it is not the best game I have ever played of this type, I always appreciate game designers with passion and this is clear from this game. I’m happy to thank Veyeral Games for giving us a key and the opportunity to review their game.
The 8-Bit Review
As I mentioned the game isn’t great graphically. In fact when I first started the game up I found the graphics rather jarring. Over time I become accustomed to the retro-esque Sega Mega Drive style graphics and I felt that they were supposed to be that way. There is no doubt that the game is targeted at a niche audience and the visuals are part and parcel of that experience.
The game continues to dish out the retro nostalgia with it’s upbeat 8-bit soundtrack reminiscent of shoot ’em ups over the ages. The soundtrack does occasionally feel a little intense and dramatic which compliments the bullet hell gameplay. In saying this though, none of the tracks are particularly memorable.
As with most shoot ’em ups the gameplay is straightforward. The game consists of a Story Mode which pits you against a range of randomly chosen fights. The most interesting aspect of the game comes in the form of the power ups or ‘gifts’ that you receive that permanently power you up and give you that oomph you need to encounter The Void. The most unforgiving element of the game is heartbreaking in the most literal sense of the word. Once your health runs out, the heart that you’re controlling will break and you will have to start over again. There’s no way to refill your health between fights unless you’re lucky and receive an item that replenishes your health.
The premise of The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is what I was most intrigued about when I was given the code to review. A rather naked alien girl is all alone and trapped in a cave and is incredibly lonely. It’s almost impossible not to feel sorry for her. At the beginning of the game she makes it clear that all she wants to do is make friends with the violent monsters that surround her. To do that she has to fight them – with the power of love! The relationship between the main character and her A.I companion occasionally panders into fan service territory as they communicate in cut scenes that appear as you progress through the bosses.
Bullet hell games are notoriously hard and The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is no exception. Veyeral Games knows this and they have included a handy Quickplay Mode, which allows you to repeatedly battle any boss at whatever desired level and with any gifts that you have previously obtained. The benefit of this mode is that it allows you to practice any boss battles that you might be having problems with. You have no idea how many times I had to use this mode to get past certain rather frustrating bosses. This mode is a literal godsend.
The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is no joke. It’s hard. So very hard. Being able to choose the difficulty of each boss ranging from 1 to 9 does give some relief. I still found that some experience and shoot ’em up ability was required even on the easier difficulties. This game makes you earn every level and learn the mechanics. It punishes slips. It rewards smart play. It doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Whilst the game is rather short, it works in its favour in regards to the game’s replayability. The story mode’s randomly generated boss encounters and gifts that you receive means that no two runs through the game are ever identical to the previous. QuickPlay Mode also allows you to aim for high scores and earn medals.
My Personal Grade: 5/10
The fact that the game has you playing as a heart which shoots hearts at bosses is rather cute but the game itself isn’t overly groundbreaking. I found myself quite often frustrated with its unforgiving nature and it was a slog to get to the end. Fans of shoot ’em ups however should get more enjoyment out of the title.
Aggregated Score: 5.8
The Final Fourteenth Mage has the weight of her backlog on her shoulders as she scours the internet searching for her next favourite game. You may know her as Priscilla Cullen and can read more of her musings at Cilla vs. Games.
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