Are traditional bullet hells not punishing enough for you? Would you like them to be even more hectic, so that you and your co-op partner scream for, let’s say, thirty minutes straight? Pixel-boy and AAA’s latest Ludum Dare entry might have made just the thing for you!
Guardian Sphere is one of the most frantic and fun shmups I’ve played. Each of you pick a character, fly through and shoot bug creatures, and keep a close eye on your health. Health is typically prety important in things like these, but when the Ludum Dare theme is “Your life is currency” things get a bit more out of hand. See, the only way to afford upgrades is to spend what remaining HP you have by the time you find a shop. Things got a little too wild and you missed the enemies’ HP drops? No money for upgrades. Took a couple too many hits from that laser mantis? Whoops, that new ability costs 5 hp and you’re down to 4.
The risk/rewards comes into play even moreso when managing health as currency, especially when you’re down to 5 hp but that upgrade costs…wait for it, 5 hp. Do you sink down to 0 and hope that you don’t take another hit before killing a few baddies? That’s up to you! Though the problem of the rich getting richer is definitely at play here, the game is short enough that if you’ve missed several upgrades due to poor play, you’re only out 15ish minutes to restart and use your new knowledge to play better.
Everything feels incredibly polished, and the art and music on display here goes well past what I’d expect from a traditional game jam entry, though the version I played had a few patches since the initial jam ended. The only “real” issue to find is a mistranslation from French to English where “buy” and “bye” are swapped. There’s even a robust character select menu with characters who all have unique abilities (which are, frustratingly, never explained to the player!!) that’s totally cool and unnecessary for a game like this.
If you’re down to blast some aliens and trade your life for new toys, check out Guardian Sphere on its itch.io page.