One of my favourite genres were shoot-em-ups or SHMUPS as they’re called. The basic premise is simple. You pilot a craft. The player’s view is usually vertically aligned. The screen scrolls vertically. Tons of enemy crafts come from the top, you blast them to bits. Some of them shoot back, some try to hit you, others just exhibit some sort of random or deterministic motion. Over time, you get better weapons, better shields and so on, and the enemies get tougher and smarter. When you get hit too much, you die, and respawn if you have lives left. Every now and then, you face a boss monster -  a ship that takes real skill, luck and a whole lot of grinding down to overcome.

An easy game to understand. An easy game to play -  its just WASD and a couple of keys for the primary weapon and alt weapon. An easy game to build as the mechanics are quite simple. They’re a lot of fun -  the reward loops are short, the skill improvements are fast, and the iterative nature of the game means that there’s always something more to do and explore. The first such game I really loved was Raptor.

Somehow, these games seem to have fallen out of favour. I don’t understand why. When so many people now use their phones as a secondary, if not primary, platform for gaming, SHMUPs would be ideal to play on the phone. Its not that they’re completely absent. There’s a few good ones made specially for the phone, some that have been ported over, but some of the best available entrants are from the bullet-hell sub-genre, which is something I’ve not been able to warm up to at all. Probably because I suck at it. I like my games a little more measured in their cadence.

This is what my dream phone SHMUP would be like:-

  • Short stages
  • Pick and play gaming
  • RPG-lite elements
  • Tons of customization
  • A variety of play-styles supporting different skill levels
  • Checkpointing
  • A good story
  • And finally, memorable boss fights

I’m tempted to make this my gaming project of the year

Image countesy Wikipedia