Risk System turns every enemy bullet into a dance partner
No guts, no high-scoring
Risk System, released today by Newt Industries, isn't quite like any other shmup I've played. While I've seen some use the idea of gaining power through 'grazing' enemy bullets (letting them fly close without hitting your central hitbox), I've never seen one commit so thoroughly to the idea. By default, there is no fire button in Risk System - you automatically shoot at whatever is in front of you - as you're meant to be entirely focused on every incoming bullet, absorbing their power to fuel your own ship's shields, guns and bombs. See the very swish anime-styled trailer below.
Risk System isn't a 'bullet hell' game. You're dealing with just a handful of enemy shots most of the time. The danger comes from hurling yourself at every projectile to boost your normally-puny attacks. Passing close to enemy shots powers up your own guns, and using the dedicated buttons to barrel roll up/down (a tricky, committed move) further boosts your attack by making you fire faster. Combine this by barrel-buzzing bullets for a huge boost, and non-boss enemies drop health when you're powered up. Graze enough and you charge up a smart-bomb like attack, rendering you briefly invulnerable. Essential, as some (well telegraphed) boss attacks are undodgeable otherwise, giving it a slightly puzzle-like edge.
There's a full anime-style opening for the game, too.
It's a clever, focused little shooter, with good art, great animation, and a surprising amount of spoken dialogue that lends some extra character and some tragedy to the action. I've yet to complete Risk System, but from what I've played, it's okay for genre newcomers and experts alike. If you're just playing to survive to the end of its six stages, the game is quite generously checkpointed, and you have infinite lives. Still, you won't see the best ending that way - your score (given a letter-ranking) determines the flow of the story, although I don't think it changes the levels themselves. I see a lot of deaths between me and straight A ranks.
As an aside, I'm sure there has to be a term for games like this - often shmups, usually Japanese games - that drop you into what feels like the final few episodes of a much larger story. While "In Media Res" feels technically correct, there's a very specific sense that we're tuning in at the action-heavy episode 24 in a 26-episode run, and figuring out the characters as we go. I like it - it's a great fit for arcade-style games. More of this sort of thing please.
Risk System is out now on Steam for £7.89/€8.49/$10.19, and a flat $10 on Itch.