Freeware Garden: Aero Chimera
Aero Chimera is one of the most bullet-hellish bullet hell shoot-'em-ups one can currently find for free on the PC. It's possibly as tough as a vertically scrolling shmup can dare to get; which makes me thankful that the game offers three difficulty settings that render it playable even for the likes of me, and that it goes even further by allowing players to test each of its six, frantic stages and eventually master them. Persisting will after all allow you to attempt an impressive high-score, as Aero Chimera has definitely been built with competitive players in mind.
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Enduring maelstroms of bullets, waves upon waves of enemies and hugely durable bosses is meant to be only half the fun. Expert players will be able to master an intricate scoring system that demands they kill enemies at point plank range, chain their kills and medals and hunt for each and every points drop.
It's easy to understand, but taking advantage of the system while not being blown up is another matter entirely -- at least for people like me who never managed to make progress in Ikaruga. This particular group should be more than happy with itself if it manages to beat the whole game and get to face the three hidden bosses. Knowing when to use your smart bombs and when to slow down and go for your aircraft's alternate fire-mode are crucial skills and getting better at them will make this great little shmup properly fun.
I would also suggest you try out all four of the available jets and see which one best suits your style of play.