Platform: PC (£6.99)
Developer: Flump Studios
Publisher: Kiss Ltd
Every once in a while, we encounter a game that's simply too bonkers to ignore. Ready? Okay, brace yourself. Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection is a bullet hell shooter... that makes you answer multiple-choice maths questions... while listening to tasty British rock hiphop from The Sixtyfours.
If Her Majesty's Government tasked CAVE with designing the civil service entrance exams on a boozy night out in the Midlands, the result might look something like this.
It reminds me very strongly of those barmy old Amiga days when bedroom coders and import publishers could fill our floppies with all manner of eccentric wonderful nonsense. Anyone who played Brian Conrad's Deluxe Hamburger and the totally bizarre Apidya will know that anything is fair game when it comes to shoot'em ups, from delicious fast food to inexplicable bee fairies.
Unfortunately Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection also reminds us that eccentricity and quality aren't mutually inclusive.
This isn't Flump's first bullet hell rodeo, so at least they've locked down the basics. Our three ships have clearly-defined hitboxes and combat roles, handle well, and offer one of my favourite SHMUP mechanics in that movement speed decreases when firing; forcing you to constantly choose between firepower and manoeuvrability. As such, there's some fleeting fun to be had here for genre fans as the enemy fleets begin their relentless advance and your twitchy reflexes kick in over the course of thirty minutes.
Good bullet hell/danmaku shooters look like unplanned chaos at first glance, but when you get your eye in, you'll realise that the action runs like an intricate clockwork mechanism. Every enemy, every suicide bullet, every projectile pattern and breathing space has been meticulously placed and paced to provide players with a fluid, unique rhythm to dance to.
Sadly, SKH: Resurrection is not a good bullet hell shooter. The six grainy levels are chock-full of recycled enemies that appear to be lazily scattered onto the screen with little regard for interesting pacing, as if they've been randomly blasted there like buckshot. With the exception of some green meanies who'll try to get behind your ship, the whole thing is monotonous and homogeneous, filling the screen with bitty, messy and ugly bullet patterns. It's a confusing bundle, not a pulse-pounding reflex exercise. Reflexercise? Regardless, Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection is mediocre at best and forgettable all told; feeling very rough and amateurish around the edges.
Now, about the maths. Instead of killing enemies to earn multipliers and increase your weapon's attack power, you'll collect floating equations that fall down the screen, then try to fly into the correct answer as it plummets. Get it right and you'll power up, make a mistake and you'll receive a downgrade.
I love the idea (especially in terms of making edutainment fun), but the execution leaves much to be desired. Not only does it add an extra level of confusion to the already-hectic bullet hell experience, but the falling numbers tend to blend into the background, often meaning that you'll end up taking firepower penalties through no real fault of your own. A particularly egregious boss fight forces you into the top third of the screen in an effort to get three correct answers under fire, with is intensely annoying since you'll only have a split second before the numbers fall out of reach. Ultimately the equations feel more like a gimmick than a game-changer.
Coherent art direction can make all the difference when it comes to shooters and their scorelines, so it doesn't help that Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection looks absolutely awful. For the record, I couldn't care less about the graphics and locked 640x480 resolution, but this is a fuzzy mish-mash of jarring disconnected themes, retina-shredding primary colours and stomach-churning biological boss designs. There's no rhyme, reason or consistent aesthetic to make sense of - in fact, every second of the action just looks... wrong somehow, as if it has been crudely slapped together out of assets from a dozen totally different games. It's often physically uncomfortable to look at; a shame because Flump have managed to make some much more handsome shooters previously.
At least The Sixtyfours bring some UK flavour to the soundtrack. Two of their four songs are totally unsuitable for the fast-paced action, and there's only 20 minutes of music for a half-hour campaign, but I've had My Sound's riff-heavy flow stuck in my head for several days now. My sound. Yeah! My sound'll make these people jump around, man!
Crunchy guitars, gritty unmistakeably British lyrics and bombastic energy make The Sixtyfours well worth checking out on Soundcloud - perhaps I'll swing by a gig if I find myself in the Leamington area - yet it's not enough to make SKH:R worth recommending.
Look: I hate having to bring out the hatchet against innovative indie titles from small British studios, who in all likelihood are lovely guys and passionate about making games. I feel like a vindictive arse. But as I'm about to explain, Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection has forced my hand.
The original Super Killer Hornet will set you back 65 Pence on the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace. It's not one of the best games on there by any stretch of the imagination (trust me), but I'd actually recommend it if you fancy checking out the maths-based gameplay fusion at a price tag that feels acceptable for the quality and quantity on offer.
Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection, however, costs £6.99 on Steam - without even trading cards or achievements to ease the sting.
Something has gone horribly wrong. What might have been a fun impulse purchase on IndieVania or Desura now has to be directly compared against the likes of Jamestown and Velocity Ultra, and found thoroughly wanting. Frankly it's not fair - both on Flump, Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection and most of all Steam customers who might end up with serious buyer's remorse.
The latter of whom I'm duty-bound to inform. Unless you grabbed Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection in the Groupees bundle, you should probably steer well clear.
- The Sixtyfours' excellent soundtrack will make you jump around, man
- Bonkers premise
- Reasonable core mechanics and controls, clearly-defined hitboxes
- Action is cluttered, poorly-paced and unpolished
- Hideous to the point of physical discomfort; schizophrenic art direction
- Math questions feel like a gimmick rather than a game-changing mechanic
- Quality and quantity inappropriate for a £6.99 Steam release
The Short Version: We've always got time for eccentric craziness, but Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection doesn't have anywhere near the quality to back up its price point. Offensively schizophrenic art design, weak pacing and shonky production values make it mediocre to play and uncomfortable to look at, despite four cracking tunes to enjoy.