Review: DoDonPachi Maximum (Xbox Live)


As I said when this shooter was released last week on Xbox Live, DoDonPachi was going to be perceived as a hard game. When you work on the level design of a vertical shooter, you need to decide if you are going to create something people can relax to, while playing through the graphics and challenges, or whether you go for something devilishly complicated with far too many ways to die filling the screen. DoDonPachi's style is the latter, and it's all the better for it.

Author: CAVE Interactive

Version Reviewed:

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Don't get me wrong, there is a cost to pay for this, and that is in the casual game player picking up the trial version of the game, starting the first level, and being faced with an almost insurmountable wall of bullets, not only coming out of the auto-firing cannons on your ship, but also flooding the screen from the enemy craft. Count to seven, and it's game over. 

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But if they try again, they might spot some gaps they can fly through, they might be able to stay a moment longer in a firing position to kill an enemy craft, and creating a new gap, they might just move around with enough delicacy to avoid the very visible incoming fire and live a little longer.

When the game 'clicks' in the gaming part of a brain, DoDonPachi becomes a fascinating game to play.

It has flaws, and the main one being in the flow of the game after you die. I would love to see a "play again" option come up as soon as possible instead of having to return to the menu system, choose play, decide which of the many craft you want to play with, and which level to start on. For a fast game, it's rather slow to get going again.

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Relying on the touchscreen means that the positive feedback you would get from a joystick or d-pad based controller is missing. No matter how many times I experience it, sliding my finger around doesn't give me the same adrenaline rush when playing. But it does try, and I'm glad to see that the controls are relative - rather than the craft flying to the point where your finger is, it reads the direction of the slide and mimics that, no matter where your finger touches.

Practically this means that you can put your finger under the craft so you can always see it, and have direct control of it. Push your finger up and left, so goes your craft, staying the same distance from your finger.

There's no button mashing to fire, either, as the auto-fire option is present here, although a double tap on the screen will trigger your super-weapon giving you temporary respite from death and a huge amount of firepower... for a limited time. What's nice is that this has never fired unintentionally for me, and just works.

In short, the user input is as good as can happen on a touchscreen, and I like the steep difficulty curve, I've no complaints here.

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Finally, the graphics. A lot is going on, and at very fast speeds. It's great to see no slow-down of graphics, even when the end of level super-baddies come on screen and double the bullets and rockets coming at you. The glowing bullets are quite large, making them easy to see, and the different colours mean that you can see the path that clumps of them are taking, which is useful to know as you try to avoid them.

Everything works in DoDonPachi Maximum - and I'm really enjoying my time losing to this game. It's a well coded representation of the "tough" shooter genre, and as such won't have universal appeal, but there's a lot to like in here. Will there be enough for you? Hey, that's what a trial version is for, but I would recommend you take a look at this one. It's worth it.

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