REVIEW: It's off the rictus scale

When I was younger I used to be utterly fascinated by arcade machines - emptying my pockets and routinely forgoing lunch and fizzy drinks in favour of another few minutes of flashing lights and loud noises.

Regardless of the game, there was a special appeal; wrapping your brain up in a blanket of familiar sounds and visuals, leaving you feeling cosy and slightly spaced out.

While 'Arcade-style' is a term you'll see plastered on all sorts of things these days, very few modern games seem able to bring back the blissfully hazy sensation you once discovered in a 1980's leisure centre - but once in a while, a genuine arcade gem seems to surface.


Just as loud and colourful as the coin-munching beasts of yesteryear, Deathsmiles is a warm and fuzzy arcade treat.
It's a side-scrolling shooter of the crazy Japanese variety, which means giant grinning apples, a final boss called Satanosaurus, and an owl with a bow tie.

Choosing from one of four typically embarrassing Japanese girls, Deathsmiles sees you weaving your way through nine levels of pink bullets and enthusiastically exploding enemies - the charming visual design being sharp enough to ensure you know what's going on, even as you're inevitably overwhelmed.

Playing through on the lowest difficulty, you'll find you're able to easily finish the game in around 40 minutes, but it's genuinely compelling enough that you'll want to play it again even if you're not a score-chasing nutjob. You can do so by just using the 'shoot left' and 'shoot right' buttons, too, but look a little closer and there are a substantial amount of tactics and tricks to toy around with, and learning these at your own pace is surprisingly fun.

In a genre that's become mired in self-destructive fan service, delivering ultra-hardcore fare like Ikaruga and Omega Five, Deathsmiles is a refreshing change. Lovingly hiding its complexities beneath a dumb and grinning fašade, it substantially lowers the barrier to entry without over-simplifying anything.

Deathsmiles takes a great step towards making the genre more accessible. It's just a shame about the awkward anime stylings - and the price is tough to swallow, too.

The verdict

Accessible arcade fun with oodles of depth

  • Aesthetically awesome
  • Loads of modes
  • Great balance of simplicity and depth
  • Relies too heavily on replay value
  • Still a bit too niche for most
Xbox 360
Rising Star Games
Shoot 'em Up