Espgaluda II iPhone Review: When Will My Phone Explode?

For me to review Espgaluda II, this thing, this manic greatest-grandchild of the Galagas and Space Invaders with odd soundtrack and as many bullets as there are water droplets in a fire hose, might be like a vegetarian reviewing meat.

It is clear as day that Espgaluda II has appeal, but... what in the world?

It's only like Galaga except for the fact that instead of spaceships it has flying girls (or a guy, I think). And the music sounds like techno on fast-forward. The bullets? There are more bullets in this game than there are spaces where there aren't bullets. A man's Gradius V and Ikaruga completion skills can only prepare him so much for the Cave-made classic Espgaluda II (maybe I should have started with Espgaluda 1?) that has been amazing crammed into iPhone-size.

This game is so busy, it seemed like it would melt my iPhone.

Loved
Japanese Arcade In An NYC Subway: I smell cigarette smoke when I play Espgaluda II, even though smoking is not allowed in the New York City subway system, my iPhone gaming venue of choice. That is because this game activates my few but clear memories of standing in Tokyo arcades, watching men sitting in front of machines that run either Espgaluda II or other vertical-scrolling shooter games that resemble it, marveling at the cigarette stench of the scene and the paintbrush thickness of the bullets being fired from the bottom of the screen up to the enemies and from the enemies back down to the ship.

Espgaluda II on the iPhone recreates this manic game with frighteningly dense detail and enables six styles of controls across three difficulty levels to get through the action. These modes include simplified set-ups that activate the player-characters' guns and shields automatically and others that involve multi-button tapping to use the game's slowdown, guard and shot-altering abilities. The new iPhone-specific mode of play allows the option to use an action-pausing effect instead of the Arcade mode's traditional action-slowing effect. Both are used for tallying big scores, but both have their risks.

Dancing With My Thumb: I believe, novice Espgaluda II player that I am, that such a game as this with its hail of bullets is not a game about shooting as much as it is about dancing in a manner that lets one avoid being shot. The art of avoiding the blossoming, billowing bullet sprays from enemies is all in the thumb on this iPhone version. Subtle wobbles of a thumb this way and that near the base of the iPhone allow for the fine avoidance of the stinging shots. You must dance through the rain to survive, a fun endeavor though I have a hunch that, even on the game's most difficult levels, it is not being super-picky about how well you need to avoid any given bullet. I've never dodged so many bullets in one game. I should be in the Matrix with skills like this.

Hated
The Music: Annoying.

Espgaluda II is a game I expected to dislike, despite the joy I had playing Treasure shooters on the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. Cave's game seemed, at first, to be shrill in sound, tacky in visuals and needlessly visually dense. The first two may still be true, but I'm having too much fun dancing through the deluge of bullets to mind any more.

Espgaluda II was developed and published by Cave for the iPhone on April 10. Retails for $8.99 USD on the iPhone App Store. Requires an iPhone or iPod Touch 3GS (earlier models not compatible). A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Cleared the game in easy iPhone mode, sampled levels in other modes and difficulties, did not become a smoker.

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