I say, do you folks fancy some retro-style shoot-‘em-up action? Mindless, twitchy, pixelated and frantic? With bullet-hell sensibilities ripped straight from the 1990s? Then you might just enjoy the strangely-titled Cho Ren Sha 68k.
Those of you familiar with shmup history might recall a company called Toaplan, which gained fame thanks to its vertical shoot-‘em-ups before it imploded from financial burden in 1994. Cho Ren Sha 68k is, for all intents and purposes, a loving tribute to that now-defunct company. Also, it sits firmly on the tougher side of the genre; this is no cute-‘em-up with anime girls, but rather a test of merit for all players who have a few years of R-Type under their belts. Be prepared to dodge endless barrages of colourful bullets while ships appear from all sides of the screen with nary a moment’s notice.
Graphics-wise, it’s nothing too special: the game features 8 bit-style sprites and projectiles with a rather boring, endlessly-repeating background. It certainly is a colourful affair and brings to mind memories of the old arcade machines – a theme complemented by the chip music and sound effects. However, the real appeal is in the manic shooting, which starts off easily enough but quickly becomes nigh-impossible once you reach the third level, a fact complicated by the intermittent shooting whereby a player has to repeatedly press the fire keys instead of just holding them down. There is also a power-up system featuring weapon upgrades, bombs and shields. Players will have to pick which one they need the most, adding a strategy element to this otherwise reflex-fuelled shoot-fest.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s completely free? And can be played directly from a USB drive? And is less than a megabyte in size? It’s the smallest little guilty pleasure you’ll have today, and it can be snagged right here (you’ll need to get the 2005 version). Alas, it’s for Windows only, but sources confirm it can run in Linux under Wine or OS X under WineBottler. If you’re having sound problems, run it in compatibility mode for Windows 98.