To all but the initiated, one bullet hell shmup is much the same as another.
You fly a spaceship around a series of sci-fi environments, dodging hot neon death and returning said onslaught with interest. You tend to die rather a lot.
Shikhondo ostensibly shakes things up with a fresh setting, but at its heart it's yet another bullet hell shmup - a solid yet fairly unspectacular one.
Yokai the newThe key twist here is that rather than a sci-fi setting, the action takes place in an ancient fantasy Korean one. There's no laser-spewing fighter plane to guide around here, but rather a choice of two mystically powered Korean women.
It's certainly refreshing as these things go. Unfortunately, the gameplay isn't anywhere near as zesty.
This is yet another case of dragging an auto-firing entity around a constrained vertically scrolling environment, mowing down waves of enemies. That those enemies are toothy yokai and creepy doll things rather than robots or aliens is almost by the by once your eyes stop admiring the painterly backgrounds and lock onto your character's vulnerable core.
Indeed, there's a curious lack of punch to these encounters. It's difficult to put your finger on, but there's no sense of urgency or drama to the combat, while boss battles are an exercise in calm-hearted persistence. I simply didn't get the crunchy thrills that the best shmups tend to instil.
Straight shooterThe shoot-'em-up action is pretty by the book here. Your characters vomit out their attacks in a wide spread, so you're pretty much always doing damage.
There is an interesting wrinkle in that you can hold a second finger down to focus your attacks forward, at the expense of movement speed. You also build up a power-attack meter by skimming close to enemy shots, though that occurs naturally. Man, those bullets get everywhere, let me tell you.
Double tap the screen and you'll unleash a cathartic megablast of death. You know how it goes.
No, really. You know how this goes. Shikhondo might present itself with a fresh skin, but once you get down to the nitty gritty it's much like any other bullet hell shooter you might have played on your smartphone over the past decade.
It looks pretty, and the setting is fairly distinctive, but Shikhondo is a staunchly traditional shooter at heart. And a fairly ordinary one at that.