The gimmick behind Develover Digital's arcade-style shooter Heavy Bullets is a simple one: Don't run out of ammo. The retro-themed indie FPS drops players into the world with a revolver, six reusable bullets, and not a whole lot of plot. From there, the goal is to survive eight maze-like levels filled with imps, snakes, and dangerous turrets. Although the reusable bullets mechanic is very promising and makes for a unique challenge, the repetitive nature of the game becomes a problem just a few hours in.
The game's primary mechanic revolves (pun semi-intended) around having a limited amount of ammo for a six-shooter pistol. Players need to chase down reusable bullets after every combat encounter to make sure they are ready for the next swarm of imps or poisonous snakes. The concept is executed well and adds an additional level of tension to every shootout. Players are rewarded for accuracy and bullet conservation, so there is an extra incentive to allow mobs to get nice and close to reduce the distance you need to travel in order to retrieve your ammo.
One of the potential problems with the main mechanic of the game is that players with slow reflexes are not going to have much fun. This is a twitchy game with super fast AI that demands perfection from its players. It's roguelike in that respect and deaths force players to start the game over from the very beginning, so Heavy Bullets is definitely not for the easily frustrated gamer. Unlike similar extra-punishing games like Super Meatboy or I Wanna Be the Guy, Heavy Bullets doesn't allow players to proceed forward with the help of memorization. Procedurally generated stages with no checkpoints mean that every death results in the start of a unique challenge back at square one. The lack of familiarity with the stages generated in each run is a nice perk for gamers interested in a unique challenge.
Although there is a brief bit of plot introduced on the starting screen, the story isn't what will be drawing PC gamers to Heavy Bullets. The story quickly becomes irrelevant as players attempt to race through the levels in search of the EXIT sign. The dungeon crawl aspect of the game is fairly simple and the procedurally generated levels don't offer any traps or puzzles that need to be solved before leaving. There are dead-ends and wrong turns, but it's usually very easy to turn around and get back on the right path quickly.
What the dungeon lacks in puzzles and traps, it makes up for in a ridiculous amount of loot. Although players can only carry one additional item at a time (they always have their revolver), other weapons and perks are scattered throughout every level. The supplementary items range from shoes that make you faster to medical supplies to rocket launchers. Many of the special usable items found in the game are one-time use only, but there are enough around that we were rarely left empty-handed.
In addition to the free items found thoughout the dungeon in Heavy Bullets, there are also vending machine-style kiosks located in each level that offer things like an extra hit point, a heal, or life insurance (which keeps you from losing all your cash when you inevitably bite the dust). Coins litter the ground after each enemy is defeated and it doesn't take very long to save up enough dough to purchase a much needed heal in the middle of a level.
The vibrant color scheme overlaying the always different levels definitely pairs nicely with the sound effects to capture an '80s arcade feel in the world of Heavy Bullets. Although we really enjoyed the look and style of the maps early on, it was a bit disappointing that the level design didn't tap into a different palette as we progressed further and further into the world. The pinks and blues were beautiful to look at, but after five or so levels, it begins to feel the same.
Heavy Bullets offers a unique challenge and fans of other similarly punishing games can get their money's worth out of this one. It takes a few hours to get accustomed to the weapons and AI behavior, but after that, dedicated players with a quick trigger finger should be able to power through to the epic eighth stage in a single sitting. The game does sit on the repetitive side but it's hard to resist the charm of challenge of its reusable bullet mechanic.
Heavy Bullets is currently available on Steam for $9.99.
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