As many you are keenly aware of, I’m a big fan of SHMUPs. It doesn’t matter what the story is, what’s at stake or even if the game features some sort of wacky protagonist. As long as has amazing music, lots of stuff to shoot down and forces me to fly by the seat of my pants, I’ll enjoy it. So imagine my excitement when I was asked to check out a game called Devil Engine. A new SHUMP that reminded me of classics such as Thunderforce and R-Type. Definitely fun, but damn if my rage factor didn’t go up a few levels while playing it.

Game Name: Devil Engine
Platform(s): PC (reviewed), Switch
Publisher(s): DANGEN Entertainment
Developer(s): Protoculture Games
Release Date: February 21, 2019
Price: $19.99

In a day and age where SHMUPs are sadly not as in force as they used to be. It’s refreshing to see that there developers that not only want to pump out the dying genre but release one that captures the feeling of those from the yesteryears. Growing up on a classic such as Thunderforce, Gradius, and R-Type, I’m feeling right at home with Devil Engine. As with many games in the genre, the premise of Devil Engine is a simple one. You’re the last hope, you need to stop something, so take this ship and blow everything the hell up. Sure, it’s cliche, but let’s be honest here. Do you actually play a SHMUP for the story? 

Starting with the most important of any game such as this, the controls are perfect. I never once had an issue trying to maneuver and dodge during my gaming sessions. Sure, I died a lot but it wasn’t due to the controls. The buttons are mapped to several functions; shot (auto-fire), bomb, burst and speed change. For the steam version, all of these were mapped to the A/B/X/Y buttons as well as the triggers. However, you can change those if you want. Digging deeper, there’s a set of options provided by the developer to enhance your chances of survival. Those being able to change the color of your hitbox, which is great for those risky moments. As well as dimming the background of the game, making it less noisy, and even lower/raising the screen shake.

Devil Engine PC Screenshot-02

Power-ups come in the form of a spread shot (red), homing shot (green) and a laser (blue).  As you play, you’ll rack your score by destroying enemies and doing so will also fill up a combo meter. Kill enough, you’ll earn a multiplier that will up your score. At every 5,000 points, you’ll earn a new bomb, 50,000 will net you an extra life. Speaking of the bombs, they don’t wipe out the entire screen and depending on your current powerup, they’ll reactive differently. With spread shot they becoming forward firing missiles, swirling double lasers with the laser power-up and slightly stronger homing shots with the homing shot power-up.

The real star of the action, however, is called Burst. This feature not only provides you with a precious moment of limited invincibility by sending out a shockwave that absorbs bullets coming your way. The more bullets you absorb, the more your score improves. It also will deflect floating power-ups, allowing you to select a different one if you’re not happy with what’s on the screen. Striking the power up one will switch it to another variety. Doing it again will result in two different power-ups on the screen. Which is really helpful for powering up fast. The downside is that every time you use the Burst ability, you use up one of your combo meters. Meaning constantly use will affect your overall score – which matters for those who enjoy bragging rights on the leaderboards. However, if you utilize the Burst properly, you can actually negate the combo meter usage and actually fill it up. It’s a complex system that takes a bit of time to get the hang of. But once you do, you’ll see your scores increase as well as your survivability. 

As for the difficulty, if you like your SHMUP’s ultra hard, well you’re going to love Devil Engine. I’ve yet to get to the fourth stage without using up all my continues. Right at the start, you’re able to choose from either a very easy or a very hard difficulty setting. I thought it was odd there wasn’t a normal mode. You know, for the casuals. When reaching out the developer about the game, I don’t know if they were joking or what, but somehow the very hard setting is supposed to be the normal version. There’s an even harder difficulty that you’ll be able to unlock. I can’t even begin to understand how crazy that mode is. Easy mode isn’t exactly that easy either, so don’t think you’re going to breeze right through it.

Visually, this game is beautiful with plenty of on-screen action with millions of enemy bullets whizzing past your ship. While the foreground and background feature various effects with lots of parallax scrolling, which has to be seen to appreciate it all. It’s really damned amazing seeing it all in action. Equally impressive is the rocking soundtrack, thanks to the pairing of Hyakutaro Tsukumo (Technosoft) and Qwesta; a group that has taken their musical inspirations from Hyakutaro Tsukumo. Listening to the tracks, I couldn’t really tell the difference. It’s a fantastic soundtrack, full of up-tempo beats and guitar riffs. I must have this soundtrack, where is it?

The game also features an unlock system, which as the name suggests, provides various unlocks the more you play. From adding filters that change the look of the game, to unlocking mini-games called challenges. Each of which will test your skills and help make you a better player. Then there’s the weird sense of humor on the developers part. From saying such as “BLAME CHAT”, reminding you that 1CC runs are the only thing that matters, or even telling you to take a break (I highly recommend you do this). The game even includes an online leaderboard that reminds you after every run, showing where you rank amongst everyone else who’s playing. 

My only complaint is at times the game exhibited some slow down, only when there’s a huge number of things happening on screen. Something I didn’t expect, especially on a beefy PC I was playing the game on. I did experience a crash previously, but that has been patched on Steam.

I must have put in 15 hours with this game so far and I’m no closer to beating than I was 10 hours ago. Still, it’s the entire presentation and fun factor that keeps me coming back. I know I’ll eventually make it to the final end credits and try again to finally 1CC the game. Devil Engine is as close to a perfect SHMUP that I’ve seen in quite some time. All the makings of an enjoyable title, with more than enough challenge and will keep even the most die-hard SHMUP player coming back for more. The only thing missing here is the in-game sound test option.

If you enjoy these types of games, don’t sleep on Devil Engine

Review Disclosure Statement: Copy of Devil Engine was provided to us by Protoculture Games and Keymailer for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Summary

Devil Engine is a brutally hard, yet engaging SHMUP that simply must be played. An amazing title that takes bits and pieces from other classics, polishes them up and produces one of the best titles I’ve played in a while. Great visuals, good music, super tight controls and more than enough challenge, make for a SHMUP that fans of the genre are going love.

Pros

  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Beautiful visuals
  • Tight controls and engaging gameplay
  • Lots of content to unlock

Cons

  • No in-game sound test
  • Rage inducing, controller tossing hard difficulty

 

Overall
4.5

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Available for podcasts upon request.