Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims

Dakko Dakko's The 2D Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character earned a coveted Pocket Gamer Silver Award when we reviewed it last summer.

Now the developer is back with Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims, and it would appear that Rotating Octopus was no fluke: this is another excellent effort.

You take on the role of the eponymous Cloud God, protecting your pilgrims as they venture forth with you. The shmup action scrolls almost constantly - aside from a few boss fights - and it's your duty to shoot and bomb enemies and obstacles that await these worshippers on their journey across frozen tundras, spooky forests, and deserted villages.

God mode

The X button fires gusts of wind, and you can adjust the angle of these by holding up or down on the D-pad as you fire. Circle hails vengeance down vertically.

You can increase your initial firing rate by picking up the hearts your pilgrims dole out to you, earning a bigger attack bonus the more opponents you destroy before collecting them.

As a God, you're invincible, but the power of your attacks will reset should you run into or take fire from the numerous beasties that await. This power also diminishes slowly with each shot, so it's advisable to conserve ammunition whenever possible.

Your followers aren't blessed with divine invincibility, and they perish after a single hit of any kind. Levels are full of hands stretching out to drag them underground, winged creatures ready to carry them off, and fire-breathing statues waiting to incinerate them.

You glide around the screen quickly, which is fortunate as it's impossible to just hang back, fire and hope your minions will survive. Instead you have to anticipate the path ahead, positioning yourself to make the most effective use of your weapons.

Like the shooters that inspired it - Parodius, R-Type, Gradius - Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims is tough but fair. With only eight pilgrims accompanying you at one time and each being so fragile, it's easy to lose a couple of worshippers with just one mistake - especially if you're new to a level.

To mitigate against this while maintaining the challenge, the game lets you revisit any previously completed area and try to increase the number of survivors at the end of each stage. However, you can't access those stages independently, so you'll have to learn a handful of levels at once.

Watching the clouds go by

Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims is a varied and substantial game, with gameplay that changes from stage to stage, injecting new ideas often enough to keep the action from becoming boring. You need to constantly think about the best way to approach a stage.

It's gorgeous, too. The characterful design draws on Eastern religious influences: it's bright, colourful, and with angry demons abounding.

Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims is a superb minis title for your PSP or Vita - an intelligent shooter with a beguiling art style. Its punishing difficulty and reliance on memorising level layouts will stop some from reaching their journey's end, but the game's system of restrained shooting and puzzle-like stages will delight serious shmup fans.

PSP version reviewed.

Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims

This smart scrolling shooter is one that revels in its Japanese spiritual iconography and risk / reward systems of play, making for a delightful but tough minis release
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.