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(Maybe Not a) Game Review - Dot Eating in Ikaruga

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I haven’t updated this personal blog since March. During this span, I wrote seven nearly-complete articles and discarded them because they were uninteresting or outrageously silly. I wrote Attempt #7 it in a ‘school’ style. I gave myself a topic and an hour to write a rough draft. The ‘school’ style resulted in a painfully long, boring rant about Ikaruga. So, for this attempt #8, I’m going to go back in time to Attempt #7 and kick myself in the shins.

Ikaruga Kinda Sucks

It is certainly a well-regarded game. Critical response was positive: Ikaruga’s Gamecube and Xbox 360 versions have surprisingly high Metacritic scores for a vertical-scrolling shoot-em-up. I used to hold Ikaruga in high regard. But then I played Dot Eater.

Dot Eater is an alternate way of playing Ikaruga, and one that yields an achievement on the 360 version. Instead of shooting enemies, you merely absorb their bullets until they get bored and leave. I ruined Ikaruga for myself because Dot Eater illuminates most of Ikaruga’s major flaws.

I once considered Ikaruga’s polarity system, where you must switch your ship’s color to absorb enemy bullets, to be revolutionary because it added a layer of complexity that no other shooter could match. Post-Dot Eater, I see it as a gimmick that dominates gameplay. In every other shoot-em-up, you dodge bullets, shoot enemies, and sometimes do weird stuff for the sake of score/rank. Ikaruga’s polarity switch system takes much of the ‘dodging bullets’ part out of the equation because there are a really small number of bullets on-screen that can actually hit you. Ikaruga is basically ‘hit the polarity button’ and ‘shoot enemies’ (and Dot Eater removes the ‘shoot enemies’ part entirely).

‘Dot Eater’ ruined Ikaruga’s music score for me. During normal play, the music is your typical ‘inspirational synth’ stuff. During Dot Eater play, the background music becomes cheesy and hilarious because it is excessive stuff for dodging a few bullets and watching enemies leave the screen. The boss music is especially hilarious because it’s DRAMATIC MUSIC for 75 seconds or so and then the Stage 1 boss gestures “peace out” and flies away. Once I heard the music while playing Dot Eater, it remained silly and ostentatious during normal gameplay.

Ikaruga is not a bad game. And I’m not saying this to prevent someone from kicking my shins someday. It’s a tough, well-designed game that rewards memorization, skill, and persistence. But after playing Dot Eater, I am left with one conclusion: Ikaruga kinda sucks.

For the Record

I was only able to beat Stage 1 without firing a shot. Dot Eater Stage 2 requires memorization of safe spots and weird glitches/easter eggs, and I didn’t bother because I could be playing Akai Katana or Eschatos or…


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