I never got into Danmaku/Bullet hell games. At one point I even forgot they existed, until Terra Feminarum came and hit me like a train. Developed by Finnish studio Polar Night Games, this title uses characters and lore inspired by Finland’s own mythology.
Now let’s get straight to the facts: this game is challenging. At first I wanted to call it hard, but I think that challenging is the perfect word to describe it. As a newcomer to this genre, I was overwhelmed and powerless facing these waves of projectiles on the screen at first. The tutorial explains how to play in a very calm way and I wish it prepared me for the storm to come. Although the gameplay doesn’t revolutionize the standards, it is solid and pleasant. You can shoot, slow down to see your hitbox (and also concentrate your shots at the same time), use special attacks and dash.
Now I think the game is an amazing introduction to the danmaku genre. This overwhelming feeling quickly turned into a desire to pass the level and dodge every hit. The absolutely crazy soundtrack also enhanced the rush I was feeling, turning this game into an absolute dose of adrenaline and frenzy. Polar Night Games knew what they were doing and perfectly mixed up the rushes and the short breathers to let the player (read: me) think about how the hell he managed to do this without getting hit. From getting destroyed to mastering the levels, Terra Feminarum remains challenging without becoming frustrating. Another point that I would like to raise is the design of the bosses at the end of the levels. Their themes and attacks are amazingly translated into bullets and projectiles (For example, the waves and splashes in the water-themed level).
So now that I cleared up the gameplay, how about mentioning the rest of the game ? Story mode is divided into 3 characters that get to play the 7 chapters of the game, available in 3 difficulty settings (for those who wonder, I was getting wrecked in normal mode, the lowest setting). Once you complete a level, it is possible to replay it as challenges are unlocked (scoring, completing the level without getting hit, …). It offers nice replayability for those who will get hooked and want to be the absolute best. I don’t know about modern danmaku games, but 7 chapters seems like a decent number to me considering the price tag of $10 and comparing it to similar games from the arcade days. Players looking for fast paced arcade action will not regret buying Terra Feminarum.
It does have some weaknesses though. First, the game features nice hand-drawn graphics that unfortunately felt inconsistent to me. The background, character, enemies and projectiles sometimes felt like they didn’t belong on the same game, and is can be a bit unpleasant to look at. No big deal though, since you’ll be too busy fighting for your life to notice this. I also wish that it had a better UI and automatic Xbox controller integration (it is a standard for PC games nowadays). This resulted in a confusing tutorial that displayed keyboard keys for instructions instead of Xbox controller buttons.
A good, challenging experience at a low price, is how I would summarize Terra Feminarum. Polar Night Games will, in my opinion, be another studio to follow for independent games fans. Danmaku enthusiasts and people who want to join in the fun and need a starting point, don’t miss this one!