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Espgaluda II for iPad, iPhone and iPod
We truly admire Cave. Unlike other publishers and L ll! developers, it's content to turn its back on mainstream audiences, and caters almost exclusively for the most niche of genres, the shoot-em-up. The upside to this is that it has mastered its chosen craft like no other developer, delivering frenetic, genuinely exhilarating blasts of joy that other shoot-em-up developers (with the exception of Treasure) very rarely master. The downside is that in so rabidly following its chosen profession, both the company and its games are insulated from the vast majority of Western gamers.
Now though, the rest of the world will finally get a taste of the Cave experience first-hand; it has lovingly ported Espgaluda 11, and the result is a title that not only surpasses every other shooter that's currently available on the machine, but also has a chance of breaking its developer into the mainstream.
For those who've never played Espgaluda, the core mechanics are simple. Shooting enemies turns them into green gems, which get depleted whenever you activate Awakening mode. This cool mode slows down onscreen bullets, which will turn into gold and points when their source is destroyed. Allow your gem counter to run out while you're in Awakening mode and the bullets rapidly speed up; it's still possible to pick up gold, but the risk of clipping a stray bullet is greatly magnified. Add in a handy charge bar that builds up the longer you hold it down and you have a system that's simple to learn - but takes an age to master.
What makes this port so fantastic, however, is not only how accurate it is, but the magnificent controls it utilises. Greatly improving on the control system used in Space Invaders Infinity Gene- whatever part of the screen you touch is the neutral point of your invisible joystick - it's possible to quickly sweep across the screen or make accurate pixel-by-pixel adjustments for weaving through the intricately designed bullet patterns. It gives you a sense of fluid analogue control that a joystick can only dream of, and is a huge middle finger to the other efforts currently taking a bow on behalf of the genre on the App Store.