Arcanacra ver 0.4.3 Black Label

I dont usually play that many flash games and if I do they rarely hold my intrest longer then a hour. Arcanacra Black Label is an exeption, made by Keim the chap who made Nomltest, so if you've played that game you'll know that he knows how to make an addictive shmup. Basically he has made the impossible possible, that is to make a flash shmup play just aswell as a normal shmup that you keep on your hard drive. Personally I think Keim is a master at programming to be able to make such a thing. Ok graphics with no jerkiness, no good awfull mouse control scieme (keyboard only like all flash games so Xpadder is a must to use a pad). No kindergarden level gameplay with no pointless achievements to make up for the lack of good gameplay. Keim has managed the unthinkable and actually made a flash shmup that is fit to be called a shoot 'em up and he did this in 2007. Personally i think he will be going to hell when he dies because he has sold his soul to the devil. How else could there be a game such as this?

Jokes aside, Arcanacra is a fun game and unlike other flash offerings is made for a gamer who plays alot of shmups and has some skills in playing them. Aside from the graphics been abit on the plain side and there been no joystick support (I wouldn't know were I would be without the trusty Xpadder), Keim's game is a hell of alot of fun if I would say alittle hard in places. I think this might have more to do with just finishing playing Recca and Kairuga which are have completely different styles of play to a normal shmup of which Arcanacra is. Keim says his insperations for the game were Cho Ren Sha 68K, Warning Forever and Kenta Cho's P47. The simalarites are there especially Cho Ren Sha, which is what first came to mind when I played it well before I read Keim's comments.


 You control a spaceship with the usual small (cockpit only) bullet hell sized hit box through 6 stages where you will battle a mixture of popcorn enemies and larger ships that depending on the type will eather throw out a spray of bullets in a simple pattern or shoot aimed shots at you. The weapons at your desposable come under 4 categories: A standard forward faced shot which is paired with a side shot that increases the arc of your firepower, A stack of 3 bombs per life of which you can have 5 at maximum, they damage everything on the screen including wiping out the enemies bullets making them both offensive and good for defence. Although I find the bombs to be abit on the weak side with just one bomb not enough to destroy some of the larger enemies out right so expierienced gamers will be using bombs for last ditch defence only and will otherwise hoard them for points at the end of the level score tally. Arcanacra's fourth weapon is a Rayforce-eske lock on weapon. If you hold shift a target infront of your ship will apear and any ship under its cross-hair will automatically get hit by missiles and the longer you hold a ship over the crosshair will be hit by more and more missiles up to a certain maxiumum. As long as shift is held down you can then move the crosshair off the enemy and the missiles will continue to fire, this makes the lock on the first choice of many a gamer when tackling the end of level boss since it allows you to dodge while still lay down fire. Lock on will also slow your ship down which is handy for dodging tight spaces like in stage 2 where you have walls and blocks to crash into. Using the lock on will also stop your side shot from firing so that you will only have your forward fire to rely on.

 This creates an extra twist to the strategy since on many on the stages you can't be focused on destroying those large ships for too long as soon the screen will be full of popcorn enemies making the game harder if you arn't selective in what you destroy first to get the enemies back to a managable level. Do you go for the groups of popcorn baddies or takle the larger ships that shoot out waves of screen filling shots that make dodging the smaller ships that shoot aimed shots. Just Like Cho Ren Sha there are bonuses for you to shoot which will then desplay 3 or 4 power ups aranged in a circle that spins[, and as a joke to CRS if you manage to stay in the middle for a length of time you will instead of get all 3 power ups the screen will say Item Break and you'll get nothing hehe. You are able to power up each of you weapons to 3 with one weapon of choice to 4. What do you charge up is a matter of choice but its imo best to charge your forward facing weapon up to full asap as that weapon will allways be firing. After thats at full you can choose to power up your side weapon (great for stage 2 and killling waves of popcorn. Or your lock on (for large ships and boss fights). On those item spheres you can pick up a shield of which you can only have one at a time. Extra bombs or if you have scored enough, extra lives are awarded on the next item sphere you come across aswell.

 The game has another mode for you to play which is simler to normal mode but with lots more bullets. Skilled shmuppers only need apply. A pratice mode is also included so you can pratice a single stage as long as youve reached it in main game. There is also an online leaderboard with has a few familier names (from the shmups.com forum) at the top. You can also watch replays of your last play or your highest scoring run also you can watch replays of the top 10 players on the leaderboard. (MrMonkeyMan as always is at the top and watching hes replays hes a damn good gamer) It is good to note that everything is saved and when you return all the settings are as they were last time you played.


 The score mechanics are nothing too out of the ordenary. During play every thing is simple with the added bonus of double points for quickly destroying the largest ship types plus text will flash upon the screen to let you know you got a 'fast break'. Other then the fast break it is the end of stage score tally that awards you with extra points for each ship and bomb you have left. Points are awarded for what percentage of enemies you kill. Get a 100% kill rate and you will get a bonus of 40k making a total of 50,000. There is also a extra award of 20k for what the game describes as a secret. Im pritty sure that you have to keep shift held down for the lock on but make sure that your missiles dont fire, only use the forward fixed gun to destroy the enemies. You'll need to do this non stop for most or all of the stage, depending on the stage it can be very hard to keep this up, Imo stage 4 is the easiest since ive only maged to do it on that level.

 Other points are awarded for how much damage you layed upon the boss. Since unlike any other game ive played the boss will always blowup after a set about of time, how much you damaged it doesn't matter for progressing to the level only score. But if you manage to damage the boss alot, the warning text will flash on the screen again plus the boss will go into a frenzy shooting alot more bullets at you and if you arn't on top of your game you wont last long under the amount of hurt its sending your way. You will also be awarded an extra 20k for achieving this. In total if you play well the end of stage score arward screen will give you about as much as you can get during normal play. So like all the best shmups if you play like a pro ie hoard bombs, dont die and most of all get a 100% kill rate, your score will be alot higher then an average run where you don't manage this.

Negetive Aspects

 Onto Arcanacra Black Labels faults which are as usual for a freeware game based on the usual things that is partly to do with the limitations of the program it is programmed and run on instead of faulty game design. Like I said before there is no joystick support, making Xpadder your best friend yet again. If you like me and use an utility like Logitech Profiller you will find it wont support the game due to it been browser based and having no .exe file that the utility needs to beable to work. By far the worst aspects of Arcanacra is the fact it is slightly old and Keim hasnt been upgrading the game to work with the latest versions of the browsers. The latest vesion of Internet Explorer wont work with the game, for some reason the main menu wont show on screen. The other browser I have on my PC is Mozilla Firefox which does work. But even thats without its own hick ups. For everytime I get a new highscore and it's worthy of been on the leaderboard, the game will ask for my name and a comment. If I enter anything in and select ok the game freezes, forcing me to reload the page. All records of my highscore are lost, no saved replay and worse of all no name on the online leader board. The best solution is to select decline and no send any info to the leaderboard. Atleast this way your replay and highscore are saved for you alone. Wether this happens in a different browser I cant say but this is a really big shame as the main reason many people will play a flash shmup even one as good as Arcanacra is to see if you can beat your fellow shmuppers on the online leaderboards. Still me and a couple of others have left comments on the games comments section so that Keim will read them and hopefully fix the problem, fingers crossed.

 There are in my opinon a couple of gameplay aspects which some may find unsavory. First is that the the difficult curve of the bosses is off. The stage 2 boss is lot more harder then stages 3 and 4 bosses. This is negated to some extent for gamers just playing for suvival, because with the boss will blowing up after a certain time it's possible to just bomb your way through the boss and use the invunalbilty you get from picking up power ups to cheese your way through it. Wether you see this as a good or bad thing will depend on how good a player you are since a gamer who is finding the game too difficult may see this as a blessing.

 If you like Cho Ren Sha 68K or any other normal average shmup that doesn't try to be too different then you will enjoy this game. Sure there are alot of other doujin and commercial shmups that are better then this game. But the main thing Arcanacra has going for it is that its totally online so you can play it when you're not on your home PC but somewhere else like at work. Even though it hasnt many bells and whistles its still a solid game that is hard enough to challenge anyone, especially those playing for score who dont bomb their way past a boss. For those wanting to achieve a score worthy of the leader board he will probably need to get to atleast the last stage with decent scores in each of the stages. Even if you find you can't put your scores on the online leader board there's always the highscoring shmuppers best friend You Tube. And the game having replays makes this so much easier to make a video.

 If you find the Black Label too easy there is a slightly harder version of the game which raises the score threshold for extends and only allows 3 bombs max. If there are other differences between versions it's unknown since i've not spent any time with the game. The same bugs evident in version 0.4.3 Black Label are apparent in version 0.4.1 including the leaderboard bug. Which is a shame because the scores on the older version arn't as high as the later game, thus allowing unskilled plebs like me more of a chance of greatness. Ah well. Both version can be accessed at keim's website. But why dont you just visit here instead. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see Black Label there for you to play. You can play the game in between reading articles ive posted, Ive given you true bliss :-).


 For a freeware flash shmup Arcanacra Black Label is the best example there is on the web today that's even despite it's bugs, If Keim ever sorts out the bugs it would be a 4.4 out of 5. As it is now I give it a slightly lower 4.1 out of 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment