Shoot to Thrill
Fans of bullet hell rogue-lites rejoice: Shoot’em All offers some of the most fun and pleasantly challenging gameplay in recent memory. The latest offering from Tinycell LTD offers a slew of fun maps and enemies that keeps gameplay fresh.
In a rogue-lite game like Shoot’em All, gameplay consists of short “runs” where all upgrades and experience earned are only applicable to that run. However, any resources received do carry over from run to run. Resources serve as the main currency for upgrading your tank and weapons, ultimately increasing your power.
Runs only last a couple of minutes each, but are encapsulating and unique self-contained experiences. The gameplay is straightforward, players must navigate their tank through fields of enemies. Your tank shoots only when stationary and automatically targets enemies. You can add drones which follow you and auto-target enemies but shoot even while moving. Players gain experience and bonuses for successfully navigating areas. These bonuses range from weapon and health upgrades to adding damage types and experience bonuses. All stat bonuses are lost on death or at the end of a successful run.
At the end of each run there is a boss tank with a different theme and attack pattern. These serve as fun and challenging endings, giving players a consistent goal between failed runs. On several occasions, I found myself blasting through enemies, tactically gearing up my tank in anticipation for the big bad at the end. It plays into the addictive “just one more run” mentality that I found myself giving into time and time again.
Just Keep Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’
During runs, players are rewarded with free spaces where they gain additional resources and experience. Resources can be used outside of battle to upgrade your tank, weapon, and drones to do more damage and increase health. These resources also allow you to open loot boxes for new parts. The parts have differing rarity with more rare gear yielding more benefits. You can also combine similar gear types of lower rarity for gear of higher rarity.
The name of the game here is rolling for the highest possible rarity. The difficulty ramps up quite steadily, meaning you’ll need to be constantly rolling for better gear. This is at odds with some of the other game systems. All gear can be upgraded, but rerolling into a higher rarity is almost always the better option. This places players in somewhat of a catch-22. You’ll want to always be upgrading gear, but also want to roll better gear that you can then upgrade.
With finite resources, this dilemma caused me a bit of selection anxiety. Ultimately it seems the game would rather remove that choice by having you simply pay for higher quality gear that you could then upgrade freely.
Perhaps the most immediately striking aspect of Shoot ‘Em All is its art style. It’s cartoony but unique and is incredibly polished. Along with its surprisingly catchy, up tempo music, each run feels fresh and engrossing. I found myself nodding along with the music, rhythmically ridding the screen of enemies only stopping to dodge incoming fire.
Missing the Mark
The main issue with Shoot‘em All lies in it’s monetization practices. The home screen is cluttered with various ads and is constantly trying to sell you something. This includes both cosmetic options and more dubious pay-to-win components. With no online component, this isn’t as egregious, but the sheer amount is sickening.
Even gameplay isn’t free from the money grab. Completing certain areas prompts the player to watch ads to unlock extra materials. This breaks the flow of the game and brings runs to a screeching halt. These ask players to watch a 30 second add or miss out on valuable resources, upgrades, or even health. There is no limit to these ads either. Essentially, every run after the tutorial is gated by at least 2 or more of these ads. These break any sort of immersion the stunning visuals and exciting gameplay can muster. Ultimately, Shoot’em All spends about as much time asking the player for money as it does allowing players to actually play the game. This is a sad reality because at its core this is a genuinely fun and well-made game.
Is it Hardcore?
Shoot’em All offers fun rogue-lite, bullet-hell gameplay in compact, intense bursts. It’s addicting gameplay, great art style, and memorable boss fights are only ruined by relentless and intrusive monetization practices.