XBLIG Review: Aeternum – a bullet hell for you and me

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Aeternum by WastedBrillance is a shooter that combines over-the-top Japanese Anime characters and a zealous love affair of side-scrolling shoot-em ups. The end result creates a twisted reality of cats shooting at you while floating in teacups and caretaker squids attacking cats, which it conveniently mistakes everything for. The strange mash-up will be difficult for the average passerby-er, yet will briefly satiate the longing desire for bullet-hells from fans of the genre.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkhRBhl_bGg

The game follows Ellica as she embarks on her quest to find her friend. The journey is riddled with cats riding teacups and bosses who are undoubtedly crazy as they attack seemingly unprovoked and admit their fault upon defeat. While the story is pretty much pointless in a game like this, it is nice to see some story line to progress the story. From a stylistic standpoint, the game seems as if it is trying to be Dust: An Elysian Tale, which was a Dream Build Play winner from a few years ago. The game breaks every so often with a character zoomed on display with text carrying the story.

Aeternum has a somewhat odd sense of nerdish snobbishness built into it. Not the kind that brought you qrth-phyl, but one that screams the developers wanted to be super fancy with the game and hid some in-depth references that they felt were overly obvious. Firstly, the title is in Latin (meaning forever/ eternity); yes, very clever, Aeternum is a bullet hell that feels like an eternity. For those with a quick eye, one can see Sonic-esqe rings are provided as bonuses when fighting bosses; uh huh, a clever nod to a Sega classic. And the piece de resistance is the elaborate patterns as the basis of the enemy bullet sprays that can be easily maneuvered with an extensive handle of the pattern it utilizes. All of this is fine and dandy, but, if you want someone to appreciate how clever you can be, make it so people can appreciate how clever you can be past level one, otherwise, your game will become similar to its studio, wasted brilliance. These types of games typically have a continue button and only restart the current stage, not the entire level, something the game added with its recent update.

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Don’t mistake Aeternum for a bad game, because it is not by any stretch of the imagination. It is just crazy hard at times, and that will undoubtedly turn people off. Like any game that has some difficult patches, completing a certain stretch or level after multiple failures, does give a sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, that sense of accomplishment is few and far between because of that difficulty curve.

On the plus side, Aeternum plays great. The art and sprites are beautifully done in that Anime cartoony look, the controls are fine-tuned and customizable, it provides a nice tutorial, and has multiple gameplay options, including one that is solely dodging bullets. And for those bullet-hell lovers, the game has more difficult options of gameplay available that greatly increase the amount of shrapnel and colorful-array of bullets on display, all for your dodging pleasures.

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Aeternum relies heavily on memory and downright skill to maneuver past some of the cat goons. Luckily, the developers included a mechanic to help get past some of the more complicated enemies. Aeternum has a great slow-move feature. This allows you to have greater control of the character’s movements while showing exactly the wind you have to work with. The sprite shown is much larger than the area needed to get past the array of bullets. By using the feature, the sprite’s heart becomes visible and shows the area that needs to avoid being hit. This also brings up the opportunity to rack up points with the graze counter. Bullets that graze, but do not hit the heart give extra bonuses to increase your score. The closer the bullet grazes the heart, the more points you receive.

The added ability to replay a stage you failed is a great option for those that feel hampered by a certain level. The game should have had this on release, but it is a more than welcome update. Now, if it only had checkpoints throughout the level, people could possibly beat it.

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And for an added challenge, Wasted Brilliance is offering a prize if you can manage to beat the game on lunatic or higher and post the complete on youtube. You can see the details of the contest, as well as hints, here.

 

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About Steve Lesniewski

Steve lives in Chicago and recently graduated from the University of Illinois. He has been fascinated with video games since his ninth birthday when he received a Gameboy Color and Pokemon Blue. He loves following sports and cheers win or lose for the Bears, Bulls and the Fighting Illini, who include the 2012 men’s gymnastic national champs as well as the 2011 women’s volleyball national runner-up.