Go To (Bullet) Hell: Deathsmiles Arrives On PC

Deathsmiles [Steam page], the goth bullet hell game from genre-kings CAVE, has landed on Steam. It’s one of the games I remember being briefly excited about when I was going through a phase of playing every Treasure and CAVE game I could find. I never did find this one. Originally released in 2007, it’s appeared on all manner of platforms since but yesterday’s release marked its PC debut. The gimmick – for there is always a gimmick – relates to Counter bullets, which enemies fire when you kill them. Even in death, they strike.

There is – and I’m convinced of this – an alternate reality version of me who devoted the best years of his life to bullet hell shooters instead of devoting them to strategy games (and an extremely useful master’s degree in medieval literature). He probably fashions his goatee just so every morning and has a collection of figurines. They’re obscure characters from obscure Japanese games that were never translated into English. Not officially translated, at any rate. Alternate Adam translates them though, in his spare time.

He’d look at this trailer and understand everything that’s happening. I just watched the entire thing and said, “Tiny witches” out loud.

In an effort to educate myself, I just read Simon Parkin’s review of the 2011 release over at Eurogamer. He talks about how players can approach the game in various ways – to clear stages or to aim for highscores – and how that leads to a pleasing flexibility in the difficulty. It’s a game that allows you to learn its systems as you play. That’s reassuring. Here’s his conclusion:

It has all of the score-attack appeal of Bulletstorm in a far more dense and concentrated form. Those able to see past the idiosyncratic, somewhat stale visuals to perceive the zeros and ones ticking away beneath the surface will discover one of Cave’s finest achievements: a game that lowers the barrier to accessibility without compromising its ultimate depth, a new Defender of the shoot-’em-up faithful.

That’s Defender with a capital ‘D’ because of a link back to the 1980 arcade game of that name, which, Parkin sez, kicked off the concept of score attack games. Games that you play to show how perfectly you’ve mastered their systems. The person who uploaded this video, Antipika, seems to have mastered Deathsmiles.

Tiny witches, eh? I wasn’t even right about that – apparently they’re angels. Angels who control familiars and ride broomsticks.


  1. godzillasushi says:

    That video you linked is from Deathsmiles 2, and not the one released on Steam yesterday….

    It’s a great game btw, still learning the systems and stages, but I had a really good time till now

  2. Zankman says:

    Saw the cover, thought that it was another ecchi/censored hentai game on Steam.

    Can’t say I’m that interested in these super-hardcore bullet-hell shooters.

    • Jekhar says:

      I’m very much into them. I just can’t stand all that moe crap. Give me bog standard scifi or alt war settings without characters, i just wan’t to play the games. Why do they have to swamp the genre with crappy borderline kiddy porn, why?

      • MugiMugi says:

        What are you on? There is no porn in this game, not anything borderline either.

        Beside the playable characters that’s for sure moe, there is nothing moe about this game, in fact the enemies all are so far away from moe you can get consider most of the enemy design is pretty gross overall. It whats gives this game a really interesting unique style.

        But not telling you to go play it, 90%+ of the other shmup on steam fall into the category you ask for, just go play them and stop cry when something do not fit your style.

        • Jekhar says:

          Read my post again. I wasn’t talking about this game, more about the genre in general. Deathsmiles itself get’s a pass from me, although barely.

      • roothorick says:

        Blame Touhou.

        Don’t get me wrong, Touhou is a significant breakthrough in the bullet hell genre, introducing a very different design philosophy in the genre’s signature patterns. But developers, obviously, are drawing inspiration from a great deal more than that. And injecting mild sexual themes into the aesthetic.

        While it’s likely Touhou influenced Cave on this game, the latter has a well-deserved reputation for bizarre “fever dream” settings and themes — ESP Ra De / Espgaluda, Mushihimesama, Dangun Feveron… Deathsmiles is just par for the course for them.

      • KusoNeko says:

        Just wait for DoDonPachi to make it’s steam appearance if you’re a fan of that nitty gritty tech gore. CAVE is no stranger to dystopian sci-fi.

        • Jekhar says:

          I know, i own all region free shmups on the 360. That’s why i’m mildly disappointed that Degica went with Deathsmiles. I’d like them to bring stuff i don’t already have. ;-)

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    You know, I always did find a faint touch of 13th century sonnets in Adam’s writing. Now I know why.