Good Lord, this shoot ’em up has it all. I don’t think I’ve ever played a shooter that felt this complete. The hefty price tag is pretty much justified here, though I wouldn’t blame you if that’s a sticking point. Dariusburst is an expensive game. Steam has had a deluge of shoot ’em ups recently, which hasn’t helped its case, but when I think of older releases like Deathsmiles, which also sold for a premium, you’re getting a lot more with Dariusburst. Across its two modes—Arcade and CS—you’ll have access to more levels than you could ever hope to beat in one sitting.
As for the gameplay, it is quintessential shoot ’em up material. There are multiple ships to choose from. Collecting power-ups is actually useful. Your secondary attack is satisfying to use and refills quickly. Some enemy bullets can be stopped by your own bullets. And you can even reverse the direction of your ship to take out straggling enemies. That also lends to some interesting and intense boss fights where the boss will switch sides mid-battle. There are perhaps too many boss fights, though, with not enough time spent on the sections leading up to them. While the variety of bosses is quite good, it still causes the game to get a little repetitive and deflates the selling point of having thousands of levels.
I also much prefer CS Mode over Arcade Mode. CS Mode (or, unofficially, Story Mode) feels like a true “console” experience. It supports a more common resolution and doesn’t let you continue indefinitely. But it’s not overly punishing, because points you earn can be used to buy and upgrade custom ships, and there are branching level paths to work down if you get stuck in a particular section. Unfortunately, CS Mode does not support co-op. Only Arcade Mode has this feature. If you don’t have a dual monitor setup, though, Arcade Mode is severely letterboxed. As such, I just don’t see myself going into this part of the game often. But I’m more than happy sticking with CS Mode.
I really wish I liked Splatoon more than I do. It’s such a great idea, like a third-person shooter Battle Painters. And if any other studio had been behind it, I think it would have turned out great. Alas, Nintendo just doesn’t know how to make a good online game. Wait, I take that back. Mario Kart 8 was superb, so I really don’t understand how they messed this up. Oddly, you have to choose your weapon (i.e. character class) before you join an online game. You can’t see what other players are choosing, which makes it impossible to create a balanced team. Then if you decide you don’t like the weapon you chose, you have to exit the lobby and join a new match. So ridiculous…
Oh, but that’s not the last of it. When you join a friend’s game, you won’t always be put on the same team. My brother and I tried to play together several times and were only on the same team maybe 20% of the time. Team assignment seemed to be completely random. It wouldn’t even try to balance out the levels of each player. I’m kind of late to the Splatoon party, though, and most players are already at Level 30+. That means they have access to better weapons, which is frustrating. It takes too long to level up, earn gold, and buy/unlock new stuff. I’m already running out of patience at Level 7. I hate most of the guns, anyway. Because we’re dealing with paint, most weapons have a very short range. Only the paint roller has been fun to use, but, going back to my previous point, it can be annoying if everyone on your team chooses a roller.
I think the only way to really enjoy this game is if you have enough personal friends to play with. That way, you can set up a private match and circumvent the daily arena restrictions (yes, every day, you only have access to two arenas for some dumbass reason). That would also let you lay down some ground rules and allow for better coordination with teammates. For lone gamers, however, I just can’t recommend this, despite how much I want to support the game’s originality. The single-player mode may be a nice consolation prize, but the meat of the game is the online mode, and it is just way too unfriendly for anyone who has ever played a good online multiplayer game before.
The last time Nintendo tried something like this, we got Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which didn’t work all that well and was basically a Kirby game in name only. Yoshi’s Woolly World, on the other hand, feels like a true Yoshi sequel. In fact, I’d consider it the successor to the N64’s Yoshi’s Story. The mechanics are almost identical, after all. But where I remember Yoshi’s Story being overly simple and easy, Woolly World is actually challenging at times and makes a good effort to introduce new gimmicks in each level. That combined with the wool theme keeps the game interesting and feeling fresh throughout. Granted, Nintendo didn’t learn from all of their mistakes in Epic Yarn and still included sections where Yoshi transforms into a vehicle. These are dumb, obviously, but aren’t as frequent and aren’t nearly as painful.
The most important part of the game, however, is that the whole thing can be played co-op. I’m such a sucker for co-op that the original Yoshi’s Story would have probably been one of my favorite 64 games had it featured a two-player mode. My wife and I had a great time overcoming obstacles the “co-op way,” though Woolly World starts to suffer from New Super Mario Bros. Wii syndrome where players keep accidentally hindering each other. Every time one of us jumped on a bounce pad, it would drag the other player off the screen, thus killing them (where “kill” means they turn into a flying egg). In that regard, co-op may actually be the harder way to play. But if you’re a fan of 2D platformers, you’ll like this one no matter how you approach it.